On his first visit to cyclone-hit coastal villages in Kanyakumari’s Thoothoor region in the wake of Ockhi, Tamil Nadu CM Edappadi K Palaniswami on Tuesday promised compensation of Rs 20 lakh for the families of those who were killed and a government job for one of the family members. According to a senior official, Palaniswami made the promise at a meeting with priests from Thoothoor zone, families of missing persons and survivors. “About 300 people attended the meeting. Formal announcements will be released soon,” said the official.
Official figures of the missing people and boats remain unclear as there is no authentic data on the people on board boats that went missing. The official said they were depending on local priests and church authorities to figure out the number of missing people, who are mostly deep sea fishermen who left shores days and weeks before the cyclone hit the southern coast on November 30.
Thoothoor zone is unique for its deep sea fishermen, who spend more than a month at sea to catch shark and tuna. According to sources, the figures for the area are as follows: Four bodies of fishermen have been recovered. Some 84 people are “reportedly killed”. While 14 boats sank in the cyclone, 38 boats are missing. As each boat carries 10 to 15 people, local authorities estimate that at least 428 deep sea fishermen are still missing from Thoothoor villages alone. Some 37 country boats with overboard engines also sank, and 43 of them are missing.
A priest who attended the meeting with the CM said, “We would like to believe that all missing people are busy catching fish in the outer seas. We are sure they will come back before Christmas.”
Besides promising Rs 20 lakh for the victims’ kin and a job, the CM assured compensation of Rs 5,000 for all affected families amid protests by fishermen in villages bordering Kerala.
P Justin Antony, a fishermen leader who works with International Fishermen Development Trust in Kanyakumari, said the CM promised measures to modernise communication equipment with the help of a World Bank project. “Many boats and people are still missing. Since it was lack of communication systems that trapped fishermen in bad weather, our demand is not for advanced wireless sets with hardly 30 nautical mile range but double line satellite phones as we go to deep seas, beyond 100 nautical mile.”