Cyclone Ockhi claims 39 lives in India, 167 fishermen missing


Our Special Correspondent

NEW DELHI, December 5:As many as 39 people have died and 167 fishermen are still missing after Cyclone Ockhi hit Tamil Nadu and Kerala coasts while 809 others were swept away to Maharashtra, the Union Home Ministry said. Joint Secretary in the ministry Sanjeev Kumar Jindal also said the cyclone is slowing down and will have no impact in Gujarat, where the first of the two-phased assembly elections is due four days later." 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 are not known yet," he told reporters here. A total of 556 fishermen were also rescued by relief and rescue teams from seas. The state governments are verifying with the affected villages to find the exact number of missing fishermen. 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 could also reach safely in the islands from the high seas after being hit by the cyclone.Jindal said two merchant ships with eight sailors each were rescued and brought to Lakshadweep by Navy and Coast Guard teams. Asked whether the cyclone will affect the election process in Gujarat, Jindal said there are no such possibilities as it has already slowed down.

Meanwhile, the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) today 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. 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 today visited cyclone-hit Kerala and assured the state of all help while asserting that rescue operations will continue till every missing fisherman is brought back safely. A total of 20 fishermen from the state were rescued by Navy today while the toll in rain-related incidents in the aftermath of 'Ochki' cyclone was officially put at 25.

Sitharaman gave the assurance at a meeting with Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan in Thiruvananthapuram after visiting some areas hit by the natural calamity in the district.Her meeting came even as Naval ships, helicopters, Coast Guard vessels and Air Force planes continued to be engaged in the rescue and relief operations to track down the 100- odd fishermen, reported missing after the cyclone tore into the state's south coast on November 30. A Navy ship located a fishing boat with nine crew members, missing from Kochi for the last 15 days, off Lakshadweep coast while ll fishermen, who put out to sea from here, were brought back to the shore at Kochi, they said.She visited Vizhinjam and Poonthura fishing hamlets, from where most of the fishermen have been reported missing. Sitharaman said fishermen who had gone much before the cyclone warning, probably 15 days ago, had been spotted in the sea and given food and water."So I will not lose hope even for a minute. If boats that had gone 15 days ago had come back with fishermen alive, we will make every attempt to bring everybody back," she said. The Minister addressed the fishermen both at Vizhinjam and Poonthura, assuring them that there would be no laxity in the search operations. " The warning was given on November 29... We started search operations from November 30... The Navy, Coast Guard and Air Force began their work. Many people were saved," she said. So much efforts, not even witnessed when the tsunami had hit the Indian coast, were being taken now, the minister said.

The office of North Goa's district magistrate has done a preliminary assessment of the damage caused in Pernem and Bardez talukas, where several prominent beaches, including Morjim, Arambol, Candolim, Baga and Calangute, are located, an official release said today. "There was no danger caused to human life in North Goa district as necessary instructions were given by the talathis (local revenue officials) to the foreigners, tourists and locals asking them not to enter into the sea waters," it said.

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