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Hundreds of fishermen missing as Cyclone Ockhi moves to Arabian Sea; rains continue in Kerala, Tamil Nadu

The rains, which have killed nine people in Kerala and Tamil Nadu since Thursday, have intensified followed by gushing winds and heavy showers.

india Updated: Dec 01, 2017 19:57 IST
Ramesh Babu
Ramesh Babu
Hindustan Times, Thiruvananthapuram
Cyclone Ockhi,Kollam,Kerala
Heavy rains and storm pound southern coast of Tamil Nadu and Kerala on Thursday as cyclone Ockhi leaves a trail of destruction in both states.(Vivek Nair/HT Photo)

Sixteen fishermen were rescued on Friday by the Indian Coast Guard and brought back to Kerala’s Vizhinjam harbour as authorities searched for hundreds more missing in choppy waters after Cyclone Ockhi intensified into a severe cyclonic storm and moved to the Arabian Sea.

They were among the 57 fishermen, who ventured into the sea from Thumba and Pozhiyur areas on Wednesday, according to the Vizinjam coastal police.

The rescue team said many of the fishermen refused to return without their boats and nets even as Kerala chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan made a fervent plea, saying saving lives was more important.

The families of the missing fishermen said authorities failed to give proper warning to them, however, the chief minister said the state government received the warning about the situation very late.

Warnings for fishermen to not venture out to sea for the next 48 hours were extended from Kerala, Lakshadweep to Karnataka.

A person saved from the seas died in a hospital and the body is yet to be identified, officials said.

The rains, which have now killed nine people in Kerala and Tamil Nadu since Thursday, have intensified followed by gushing winds and both the states are likely to experience heavy showers and winds reaching a speed of 75kmph in the next 36 hours.

“Ockhi cyclone intensified into a severe cyclone and lies at about 110km northeast of Minicoy (island) and it is likely to cross Lakshadweep arch during the next 24 hours,” the India Meteorological Department said in a bulletin in the morning.

Rough sea near Vizhinjam coast in Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala. (Vivek Nair)

Squally wind conditions would prevail along and off Kerala and Karnataka coast, weather officials said. They forecast rainfall at most places with heavy to very heavy at a few places and isolated extremely heavy falls (more than 20cm) over Lakshadweep area during next 24 hours.

Kanyakumari, Tuticorin and Tirunelveli districts in Tamil Nadu continued to receive rains for the third day on Friday though the cyclone threat mitigated as the system, lying 70km south of Kanyakumari on Thursday, moved to the Arabian sea.

A holiday was declared in schools and colleges in Tamil Nadu’s five districts, including Kanyakumari, which bore the brunt on Thursday. The Thamirabharani river in Tirunelveli district was in spate after the rains.

Rains also hit several other parts of the state, including Chennai and its surroundings since Thursday night, following which a holiday was declared for schools in Chennai, Kancheepuram and parts of Tiruvallu district as well as some other districts.

More missing

The Indian Navy and Indian Air Force were still searching for at least 200 other fishermen missing from both the states. Union home minister Rajnath Singh has assured the states of all help from the Centre and said more helicopters will be pressed into service to locate the missing fishermen.

Five fishermen from Kanyakumari district have not returned to the shores after they went to the sea two days ago, police said.

Search operations for the missing fishermen resumed in the morning as the navy deployed a Dornier aircraft and an Advanced light helicopter (ALH) with divers, Southern Naval Command spokesperson Commander Sreedhar Warrier told news agency Press Trust of India.

A report said five naval ships and four vessels from the coast guard have been deployed for the search and rescue operations off the Kochi coast. All the ships have been directed to be positioned along and off the Kerala coast and Dornier aircraft will make additional sorties on Friday as well.

Two ships with relief materials are on also stand by at Lakshadweep for assistance, officials said.

(With PTI inputs)

First Published: Dec 01, 2017 12:22 IST