Cyclone Ockhi batters Lakshadweep, TN, Kerala get breather but many still missing

After battering Tamil Nadu and Kerala for two days, Cyclone Ockhi has swept into Lakshwadeep islands. The MET office has predicted heavy rain in the archipelago over the next 24 hours.

india Updated: Dec 02, 2017 13:58 IST
Cyclone Ockhi,Lakshadweep,Heavy rain
A fisherman who was adrift in the Arabian Sea is escorted down from an Indian Navy helicopter in Thiruvananthapuram after being rescued. (AP)

Cyclone Ockhi that left a trail of death and destruction along the southern coast of Kerala and Tamil Nadu made landfall in Lakshadweep Islands in the Arabian Sea early Saturday with heavy rain and strong wind.

The India Meteorological Department said heavy rainfall is expected all over Lakshadweep for the next 24 hours with extremely high rainfall (above 20 cm) in the northern parts. The cyclonic system is expected to start weakening by December 4.

Reports from the island said strong winds with speeds of 130 kmph are lashing many parts of the island with Kalpeni and Minicoy islands taking the maximum brunt. Since communication networks have been badly affected the extent of damage is not immediately known. The Agatti Airport, the only one in the archipelago has been closed down

Talking to the Hindustan Times over phone Lakshadweep’s lone member of Parliament Mohammed Faizal said cyclone has left massive destruction in the island.

“The island witnessed a strong wind with the speed of 135 kmph on Friday night and early Saturday. After the destruction in Minicoy and Kalpeni, the cyclone moved to the capital Kavarthi. Though many houses and buildings were damaged there is no human casualty so far,” the MP said adding that precautionary steps have limited damage in the island.

Faizal said many areas in the island were isolated after communication and power networks crippled in the island. “We are in touch with the Central government which promised us all help. Navy ships and Air Force copter are bringing in enough relief materials. We hope rains will subside by evening,” he said.

The Navy has rushed to a fleet of ships to the islands after the IMD issued a red warning and put the cyclone in ‘very severe’ category. Sources said precautionary measures taken by the island administration helped contain damages. The southern air command of the Indian Air Force said its copters are on standby.

As the cyclonic storm moved to the Lakshadweep islands, it was a big reprieve for Tamil Nadu and Kerala. Rains subsided and clear sky was visible in many areas. A joint operation conducted by the Navy and the Air Force rescued 26 fishermen adrift in the deep seas on Saturday.

A Navy spokesman said naval ships escorted 104 fishermen from TN and Kerala to Kalpeni (Lakshadweep) after they were caught in the storm.

Thiruvananthpuram district collector Dr K Vasuki, who is co-ordinating rescue operations in Kerala, said 102 fishermen are still missing. She said efforts are on to contact authorities in Kalpeni to verify whether some of the missing are in the list of the rescued fishermen who reached Kalpeni. The cyclone has taken 16 lives in TN and Kerala.

The Kerala government of Saturday announced a relief of Rs 10 lakh to the families of deceased and Rs 20,000 each to the injured in cyclonic storms. There are nine confirmed deaths in Kerala.

Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan who made the announcement said free ration will be given to the affected and the government will take all measures to compensate damages to the fishermen. On Friday the CM had to make a fervent plea to some fishermen who refused to enter rescue ships and copters leaving their boats and nets in deep seas.

“A joint operation by various wings including navy, air force and coast guards helped save many lives. We are yet to gauge total damage,” he said adding that a report that a Japanese ship rescued many stranded fishermen was incorrect.

(With Malavika Vyawahare in New Delhi)

First Published: Dec 02, 2017 13:58 IST