THIRUVANANTHAPURAM/KANYAKUMARI: Two fishermen died while 214 others were safely evacuated in rescue operations jointly launched by the Indian Navy, Air Force and Coast Guard in the seas off Thiruvananthapuram on Friday as heavy rains lashed the area under the influence of Cyclone Ockhi.
Heavy rains also battered Tamil Nadu’s southern districts on Thursday night and early on Friday morning, killing nine people in the last two days and throwing life out of gear in several places.
Kerala Fisheries Minister J Mercykutty said that 53 of the rescued fishermen was airlifted from the sea.
The dead have been identified as Christy, 51, who, according to the official spokesperson at the state owned Medical College hospital, was brought dead and the second was identified as Xavier, 57.
A third person whose identity is yet to be ascertained conditions is reported to be serious.
While 37 rescued fishermen are being treated at the Medical College hospital, another 34 are under medical observation at the General hospital in Thiruvananthapuram.
Cyclonic storm Ockhi had hit the southern districts of Kerala and Tamil Nadu on Thursday, and caused widespread destruction in the southern districts of Thiruvananthapuram and Kollam.
The rescue operations that began on Friday morning comprised 11 ships of the Navy, Coast Guard and Coastal Police, six helicopters and two Dornier aircraft.
The Kerala government has opened a control centre at the technical area of the airport used by the Indian Airforce and Thiruvananthapuram District Collector S Vasuki said as per information there, another 30 more fishermen are there on the high seas and every efforts are going on to rescue them also.
In a related development she said a Japanese merchant ship has rescued 60 fishermen and are being brought to the shore.
Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, who held a high-level meeting in the morning, said there was no reason to panic as matters were under control with efforts of the Navy and Coast Guard. He also said they would ask the Defence Ministry for more naval aircraft to help rescue stranded fishermen.
Addressing reporters here, Vijayan said the Director-General of Shipping has also asked passing merchant ships to extend all help to fishermen caught in the sea. Two such ships rescued 10 fishermen. “The biggest problem the rescue team is facing is that fishermen in the deep sea are not willing to let go their boats, which is creating a problem,” he said.
Quoting meteorological reports, he said that it was a major relief that the cyclonic winds that were 70 km from the Kerala coastline on Thursday, are now around 200 km away.
On Friday evening, the Chief Minister’s Office informed that reports from the meteorological office predicted that rains will continue in Kerala for a day or two more and winds would also be there.
Meanwhile, angry groups of fishermen in the coastal villages in Poovar, Vizhinjam and Kovalam have threatened to block the highways if the rescue operations are not intensified. However, the protest died down later after they were told about the government’s efforts.
Even as relief and rescue operations were mounted in a big way, authorities in several Tamil Nadu districts, Kanyakumari, Tirunnelveli and Thoothukudi ordered closure of schools and colleges on Friday.
Life in Kanyakumari was thrown out of gear due to heavy rain and strong winds. Over 1,000 affected people have been put up in camps, as per officials.
State capital Chennai also received copious rains from Thursday night.
Nine persons have died in Tamil Nadu due to rain following the Ockhi cyclone in the last couple of days. Chief Minister K Palaniswami has declared ex gratia for the bereaved families.
Teams of the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) and the state DRF are involved in rescue and relief operations in Kanyakumari district. Several villages in Kanyakumari district are marooned. — IANS