Blame Game In Tamil Nadu And Kerala As People Struggle To Cope With Havoc Of Cyclone Ockhi
While the IMD has clearly said that they had issued the alert on 28 November, two days before the cyclone Ockhi hit the coastal areas, the government of both the states are trying to evade responsibility by suggesting that the alert came too late.
Residents carry their belongings as they evacuate their houses after flooding caused by Cyclone Ockhi in the coastal village of Chellanam in Kerala. (Photo: Reuters)
New Delhi: Despite all efforts, many fishermen are still missing. Cyclone Ockhi has already claimed 24 lives in Tamil Nadu and Kerala.
Rescue operations are still on with Navy, Air Force and Coast Guard's coordinated efforts in Thiruvananthapuram-Kollam coastal area, but there’s no way the state governments or the Indian Meteorological Department (IMD) can compensate for the loss of lives and property.
While the IMD has clearly said that they had issued the alert on 28 November, two days before the cyclone hit the coastal areas, the government of both the states are trying to evade responsibility by suggesting that the alert came too late.
Dr M Mohapatra, IMD DGM New Delhi, NWFC, told CNN-News18 that every week the Met department issues a statement on the weather. “The cyclone alert was sent to the state departments two days before it hit,” he said.
RB Udaykumar, Tamil Nadu’s revenue and disaster management minister admitted that IMD had informed them about the cyclone. “We immediately informed the district collectors of Kanyakumari, Tuticorin and Nagercoil about the alert,” he said. Udaykumar said that all resources were put in by the government to avoid the disaster of the natural calamity.
He said nine people died because thousands of trees were uprooted. “We ensured we set up 15 relief centres at Kanyakumari where more than 1200 people from low lying areas were relocated. We reviewed the district, and the situation is under control,” he said.
But the situation doesn’t quite seem to be under control. Though the cyclonic storm - which has weakened - has moved away from Lakhadweep and is headed towards the coast of Maharashtra, hundreds are reported missing and 16 people have died in Kerala and Tamil Nadu. Despite all efforts, 33 boats and 83 fishermen haven’t yet returned.
Tamil Nadu's Kanyakumari district, one of the worst affected, still remains largely powerless with more than a thousand people stranded in rescue centres.
Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Edapadi K Palaniswami in a statement said that he has ordered the officers and the ministers to take up rescue and relief operations on a “war footing”.
There are several questions that arise here—Why were the fishermen allowed to enter the sea? Why were they not told to avoid it? If the district collectors were informed in advance why had they not taken enough precautionary measures?
On Sunday, fishermen in Thirvananthapuram launched their own rescue operation with 55 boats venturing into the high seas to search for those who have not returned. They found six bodies. The angry fishermen community protested before Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan when he visited a fishing village in the state capital. They protested in Kanyakumari too alleging rescue operations have been inadequate.
There’s a tale of blame game in Kerala too. While the Kerala government insists that it received an IMD weather alert only on November 30, Union minister Alphons Kannanthanam said it was issued two days earlier. “There was a warning to the fishermen not to venture into the sea. It is a question of who allowed them to go even after the warning,” he said.
Meanwhile, the State Disaster Management Authority (SDMA) and the Indian Meteorological Department (IMD) have been sparring over lapses in issuing a warning over cyclone Ockhi.
While the IMD has confirmed that a bulletin was issued to all states on 28 November, warning of heavy rains, squally winds and high waves in south Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Lakshadweep, indicating a depression that could intensify. It had even advised fishermen not to venture into the sea.
Officials at SDMA claimed there was no indication in the alert that it could develop into a cyclonic storm. They said that it looked more like a regular protocol, alerting for heavy rains and high waves.
Union earth sciences minister Harsh Vardhan said that IMD’s first bulletin of the cyclone warning was conveyed to all district officials in Kerala, the state disaster management authority and the chief secretary.
"In the bulletin, there was a clear message for fishermen not to venture into the sea during the next 48 hours. This bulletin was repeated every three hours including on the night of 29 November and was still continuing," Vardhan said.
While the government is trying to shift responsibility by blaming the IMD, it cannot be denied that there wasn’t enough precautionary measures in place.
The state governments have reached out to the Centre, with Prime Minister Narendra Modi assuring to provide adequate help. However, the blame games have begun even as the people are struggling to cope with the trail of havoc Ochki has left behind.
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