After crossing Lakshadweep on Sunday, cyclone Ockhi has set its course north and is expected to make landfall in Maharashtra and south Gujarat in the next 24 hours.
The India Meteorological Department (IMD) issued an alert Monday, warning fishermen against venturing into the sea as coastal areas are likely to experience strong winds.
A cyclonic bulletin issued by IMD stated: “The very severe cyclonic storm Ockhi that lay centered over Eastcentral and adjoining Southwest Arabian Sea, about 420 km West North West of Amini Divi, 880 km South-Southwest of Mumbai and 1090 km South-Southwest of Surat is very likely to move North-Northwestward during few hours and then recurve North Eastwards during the subsequent 48 hours and weaken gradually.”
Pankaj Kumar, principal secretary (revenue department), said cyclone Ockhi is likely to cross south Gujarat near Surat by December 5.
The Gujarat government issued instructions to district magistrates, asking them to take adequate precautionary measures. NDRF teams have been put on alert and deployed at critical locations.
Cyclone Ockhi, however, is likely to weaken after it makes landfall. Maharashtra is also expected to see heavy cloud cover and rainfall in the next two to three days, IMD said.
On Sunday, the Maharashtra Chief Minister’s Office tweeted that 28 more boats carrying 321 fishermen had docked along the shores of Ratnagiri. “23 from Tamil Nadu, 3 from Kerala & 2 from Karnataka. They are now docked at Mirya Bunder, Ratnagiri. All are safe now and officials are looking after them with utmost care,” the CMO tweet said.
The day also saw 200 fishermen from two villages in Kerala head into the sea to rescue 96 fishermen who went missing. The toll rose to 25 after they returned with bodies of their fellow fisherfolk. Angry residents of Vizhinjam prevented Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan and his cabinet colleagues from visiting families of the missing fishermen. Vijayan also cancelled his visit to Poonthura, a village from which 30 fishermen are still missing.
Meanwhile, as many as 60 people were rescued by the Navy, Air Force and the Coast Guard.
Union Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman reached Thiruvananthapuram on Sunday evening but moved to Kanyakumari to visit cyclone-affected areas there. “An update on the search and rescue efforts being done by the Indian Navy, Coast Guard and Air Force to save the lives of fishermen affected by #CycloneOckhi: 357 fishermen have been saved as of 10 am today,” she tweeted.
The blame game between Kerala government and the Centre took an unexpected turn on Sunday when Union Minister of State for Tourism Alphons Kannanthanam backed the Kerala government stand that states got the “warning about Ockhi only at 12 noon on November 30”.
“Hence, fishermen could not be given an early warning. Besides, the direction of the wind kept changing. Hence, a clear warning about the cyclone could not be given on time.’’ Hours later he said the central agencies had given necessary alerts on November 28 and 29, reported PTI.
Harsh Vardhan, the minister of Science & Technology, Environment and Forests, said in a statement that IMD “started warnings for heavy rainfall and strong winds for Kerala and South Tamil Nadu from 28th November itself. On 29th afternoon, they issued the first bulletin of the cyclone warning and conveyed to all district officials, state disaster management authority and the Chief Secretary. In the first bulletin, the information was clearly provided on the possibility of further intensification of the system into a cyclonic storm and associated adverse weather. In the bulletin, there was clear message for fishermen not to venture into the sea during next 48 hours.”
NCP’s Lakshadweep MP Mohammad Faizal said the Islands have suffered a loss of over Rs 500 crore.
Meanwhile, Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar on Monday donated Rs two crore from the CM’s relief fund to the Prime Minister’s National Relief Fund (PMNRF) to provide relief to the victims of Cyclone Ockhi. The assistance has been given to provide immediate relief to the victims of the cyclone, an official release said.
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