Fishing Community at This Kerala Port Faces Wrath of Cyclone Ockhi, Cries Out for Help
This natural port in Thiruvananthapuram was unable to escape the fury of Cyclone Ockhi. Thirty five fishermen who had gone into the rough waters from here on Wednesday have not returned so far.
A fisherman who was stranded in the Arabian Sea is escorted down from an Indian Navy helicopter after being rescued in Thiruvananthapuram. (AP Photo)
Thiruvananthapuram: On any normal day, the fishing harbour at Vizhinjam port and the market nearby remains a sea of activity as boats come and go with great frequency and fishermen folk joust with each other to sell their coveted catches.
But on Saturday, the place had come to a standstill. The only sounds here were those of roaring winds, crashing waves and loud wails.
This natural port in Thiruvananthapuram was unable to escape the fury of Cyclone Ockhi. Thirty five fishermen who had gone into the rough waters from here on Wednesday have not returned so far. Across Kerala, 13 people have died, of which seven were fishermen.
Their families are anxious and grief stricken. Women have left their homes and sit at the church near the sea shore, waiting for any positive news. Many fell unconscious and lay on the floor inside the church. Some had to be put on drips.
“Bring back our children. That’s all what we want,” said an elderly woman. “What is the government doing? It's been four days but we still don’t have any information about our children. Please rescue them,” she added.
Unhappy with the government’s efforts and the pace of the rescue mission, they have taken matters into their own hands. On Saturday, 40 fishermen went out from Vizhinjam in 11 boats to attempt a rescue operation.
The fishermen folk said the loss of lives could have been minimized, if not avoided, but the government did not issue any warning. “If the police had informed us or at least passed on information through churches, many would not have gone out on Wednesday night,” said a native of Poonthura, a suburb of the state capital.
The Met department had issued a warning on Wednesday evening itself but it was not effectively communicated to the fishermen.
The families of the fishermen also took out a protest march and blocked the national highway at Kazhakoottam. They alleged that the police did not have any information on how many fishermen were still missing.
According to authorities, about 415 fishermen have been rescued so far. Another 117 are missing, of which 115 are from Trivandrum and five from Alappuzha. The rescue operations are being carried out by the Indian Navy, Army, Coast Guard as well as the coastal police.
The families demanded that fishermen should be taken along with the coast guard and other ships as they were familiar with the sea and would be able to take them to places where fishermen usually go.
The government, meanwhile, has declared Rs 10 lakh compensation for families of those killed and Rs 15,000 for the injured. About 550 families have been evacuated and are currently living in camps.
Chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan said he would write to the central government and ask it to declare Ockhi cyclone as a national calamity. Heavy rainfall in isolated areas across Kerala has been predicted for the next 24 hours and a heavy rainfall alert has been issued in Lakshadweep.
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