Cyclone Ockhi wreaks havoc in south India, 39 dead; political rallies cancelled in poll-bound Gujarat

So far at least 39 people have been killed and 167 missing, according to the Home ministry. In Gujarat, the expected landfall was likely near Surat, as top political leaders were forced to cancel their rallies.

By: Express Web Desk | New Delhi | Updated: December 5, 2017 10:12 pm
cyclone storm ockhi, gujarat elections, political rallies cancelled, surat, maharashtra, natural calamity, indian express, express online, india news Fishermen return to their base at Worli Koliwada Monday. Nirmal Harindran

Even as election heat spreads in Gujarat, major political rallies in the state were cancelled after cyclone Ockhi moved closer to the poll-bound state after triggering rains in Mumbai and wreaking havoc in Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Lakshadweep. “As of now, 10 people lost their lives in Tamil Nadu and 29 others in Kerala. Even though the exact number of missing persons were not known, as per available information, whereabouts of 74 fishermen in Tamil Nadu and 93 fishermen in Kerala is not known yet,” Joint Secretary in the home ministry Sanjeev Kumar Jindal told reporters.

In Gujarat, the expected landfall was likely near Surat, as top political leaders were forced to cancel their rallies. Gujarat experienced some showers even as the India Meteorological Department (IMD) said the cyclone is expected to weaken further. “It is very likely to continue to move north-northwestwards, weaken gradually and cross south Gujarat and adjoining Maharashtra coasts near Surat as a deep depression by the night of December 5,” the department said in its latest bulletin.

The natural calamity did not cause any damage to life and property while it passed the Mumbai coast. As per reports, the cyclone storm triggered hailstorm in some sections of the Mumbai-Pune Expressway.

POLITICAL RALLIES WHICH GOT CANCELLED

Rahul Gandhi’s helicopter was diverted due to bad weather while he was on his way to Ajnar in Kutch district. He was scheduled to hold four rallies in Gujarat on Tuesday. However, except for the one in Anjar, the rest in Morbi, Dhrangadhra and Surendranagar were cancelled due to the impending landfall of cyclone Ockhi.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Surat rally, scheduled for tomorrow, has been cancelled in the wake of cyclonic storm. As Gujarat remained on alert, Prime Minister Narendra Modi appealed to BJP workers to extend a helping hand to those that would be likely hit by the cyclone, which is expected to make a landfall around midnight tonight on the state’s southern coast in Surat.

With #CycloneOckhi expected to make a landfall in Gujarat, I appeal to @BJP4Gujarat Karyakartas to focus on helping people across the state. Our Karyakartas should devote themselves to providing all possible assistance and stand shoulder to shoulder with fellow citizens.

The cyclone forced cancellation of BJP chief Amit Shah’s poll rallies scheduled on Tuesday in Rajula town of Amreli and Mahuva and Shihor of Bhavnagar district. BJP MP Manoj Tiwari’s roadshow in Bapunagar area of Ahmedabad was also called off due to light showers since early morning.Rallies and press conferences of Rajasthan Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje and Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath in Surat were called off on Tuesday by the party high command.

Former Congress strongman Shankersinh Vaghela, who floated his ‘Jan Vikalp’ front, was also forced to cancel his roadshows and rallies that were to be held in Junagadh, and Mahuva and Palitana towns of Saurashtra, a leader of his outfit was quoted as saying by PTI.

WHEN STORM TOOK A POLITICAL TURN

On Tuesday, the cyclonic storm took a political turn after Patidar leader Hardik Patel pounced upon the opportunity to take a witty dig at the ruling BJP government and Prime Minister Narendra Modi. “Cyclone Ockhi is expected to make landfall in Gujarat. All of you go to safe places, do not rely on administration as they are busy serving the ‘Saheb’,” Patel wrote on Twitter.

RESCUE OPERATIONS

A total of 556 fishermen have been rescued so far as the state governments are verifying with the affected villages to find the exact number of missing fishermen, PTI reported.

Altogether 809 fishermen with their boats from Tamil Nadu and Kerala were swept away and reached Maharashtra coast where they were provided food and shelter. While 33 tourists, both domestic and foreign, were safe in Lakshadweep, 250 fishermen reached safely in the islands from the high seas after being hit by the cyclone.

Meanwhile, the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) has asked fishermen in both eastern and western coasts not to venture out in the sea for the next three days as heavy rainfall is expected in many areas due to cyclone Ockhi.

Asking people not to panic in case of a cyclone alert, the NDMA said in an advisory that fishermen along and off Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu coasts should not venture into the sea from December 6 to 8 while fishermen along and off Andaman and Nicobar Islands are advised not to venture into sea till tomorrow.

Fishermen living along and off South Gujarat and North Maharashtra coasts have been advised not to venture into the sea till tomorrow morning, news agency PTI reported.

The severe cyclonic storm Ockhi will move over east-central Arabian sea and move further north-northeastwards with a speed of 21 kmph and lay centred over east-central Arabian sea at latitude 17.5º N and Longitude 70.4º E, about 480 km southwest of Surat and 300 km west-southwest of Mumbai.

The NDMA said light to moderate rainfall is expected at most places in Maharashtra with isolated heavy rainfall also likely over north Konkan, Palghar, Thane, Raigarh, Greater Mumbai, Dhule, Nandurbar, Nashik, Jalgaon, Ahmednagar and Pune districts.

Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman also informed about the rescue measures being taken by the forces to get the missing fishermen. “Every attempt is being made by Coast Guard, Indian Navy & Indian Air Force to get the missing fishermen and to bring them back to safety. I have been quoting the numbers given to me by the state govt,” she was quoted as saying by ANI.

(With PTI inputs)

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