CHENNAI: Even as the agitating fisherfolk in Kanniyakumari district, struck by the savage cyclone Ockhi, are claiming that over 1,000 fishermen are still missing with their vessels, the Tamil Nadu government on Friday said that only 582 fishermen were missing and search operations involving the Defence forces intensified to trace them.
Talking to mediapersons here, Commissioner for Revenue Administration (CRA) and Relief Commissioner K Satyagopal said, “As many as 35 fishermen, along with 13 countryboats (vallam) and 547 men with 66 multi-day fishing vessels, are missing. Efforts are on to trace them.”
He informed that 1,660 fishermen and 139 boats had taken refuge in various places such as Veravel in Gujarat, Devgarh and Malwan in Maharashtra, Karwar in Karnataka.
“IAS officers have been despatched to these States to facilitate the return of the fishermen,” he said, adding the Tamil Nadu government had written to the States to provide fuel and financial assistance, which would be reimbursed, to enable the stranded fishermen to return home.
Faced with criticism of slackness in search operations, the State government paraded top officers of the rescue agencies - Indian Coast Guard and Navy - before the media to explain the steps taken by them to rescue the fishermen who had lost direction in the cyclone.
Deputy Inspector General (DIG) of Coast Guard Navdeep Raj, who is the Chief Staff Officer (Operations), and Captain N Shyam Sundar of the Navy said that the ‘Operation Sahayam’ was underway to trace the missing fishermen.
They informed that the neighbouring countries including Sri Lanka and Myanmar were also contacted, seeking details of stranded fishermen.
According to M Venkatesan, Regional Logistics and Administration Officer, Indian Coast Guard, “a total of 672 fishermen have been rescued so far by the Coast Guard, Navy and Air Force. Of them, 268 belong to Tamil Nadu.”
Denying the allegations of rescue forces not moving beyond 200 nautical miles, he said, “In fact, our forces have been moving up to a distance of about 400 nautical miles.”
Shyam Sundar said that state-of-the-art aircraft P 85, which can fly above the sea for about 10 hours without break, had been deployed for search mission.