As many as 43 Kerala fishermen, who were stranded in the sea in the wake of cyclonic storm Ockhi, have returned to the coast safely since Thursday night and rescue agencies have managed to maintain contact with another 70 fishermen stuck in the sea, said Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan.
The Chief Minister made an official statement of the rescue operations amidst growing concern over the fishermen who had ventured into the sea late Wednesday night, but failed to return to the coast due to the adverse weather. The Chief Minister convened a high-level meeting of officials on Friday morning to take stock of the emergency situation arising out of the cyclonic storm Ockhi that has put seven southern districts of Kerala in a state of panic.
Vijayan said rescue operations are under way in full swing despite the inclement weather conditions. “We don’t have the exact number of fishermen missing in the sea. Since last night, 43 fishermen had been either rescued or returned safely to various destinations in southern Kerala. Another 70 fishermen have got in touch with various rescue and relief agencies. But fishermen in 33 small country boats are not cooperating with the rescue mission. They are reluctant to leave their vessels and fishing net mid-sea. Rescue workers are trying to convince them to return to the coast in the ships. Those fishermen’s reluctance to return to the coast indicates that they are stuck in a safe zone,’’ he said. READ OUR LIVE UPDATES
An official communication from the Indian Navy said advanced light helicopter has dropped a life-raft for eight survivors at sea, 20 nautical miles off Thiruvananthapuram, and is picking up two critically injured survivors from ship M V Energy Orpheus. A Naval Seaking elicopter has also launched shortly to recover eight survivors.
The Chief Minister said there was no delay on the part of the government in taking prompt action to cushion the impact of the cyclone. “The government got the warning about the cyclone at 12 noon on Thursday. Subsequently, all necessary steps have been taken to tackle the situation.’’
He said seven ships and six aircraft have been pressed into the rescue operations in the affected areas. A special control room has been opened at the airport to co-ordinate the operations of Navy, Air Force and Coast Guard. As the cyclone is moving towards Lakshwadeep Islands, the Defence Ministry has been asked to deploy more vessels and aircraft in the coast.
Earlier in the day, enraged families of missing fishermen protested against the alleged government failure to intensity the search operations. They, mostly women, blocked the roads at several coastal areas in Thiruvananthapuram. The alert along the Kerala coast would continue for another 24 hours. According to IMD, the cyclone is now 200 km away from Thiruvananthapuram coast.