As many as 531 fishermen, who were stranded in the stormy waters when Cyclone Ockhi struck the southern Tamil Nadu coast, have been rescued, the state chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan said on Saturday. Of the rescued fishermen, 393 are from Kerala and 138 fishermen from the Lakshadweep Islands. Earlier in the day, the family members of around 1,000 fishermen had demanded that aerial searches and rescue operations be launched to trace the missing men.
Protesting on the roads, the families said the fisher folk had ventured into the sea in around 100 boats three days back and have not returned. Several boats appear to have capsized due to heavy winds and rains after the cyclone made landfall in the state and neighbouring Kerala on Thursday and the stormy conditions continue in the area.
DMK Working President MK Stalin wrote to Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, on behalf on the fishermen families, saying: “Their families are very much afraid that the lives of the stranded fishermen are in great danger.” He told Sitharaman “immediate rescue measures must be undertaken by the Indian Coast Guard”.
Kanyakumari is one of the districts heavily battered by the cyclone since Thursday. According to the protesters, no one from the authorities has come and met them yet. They are now demanding use of helicopters to carry out the search and rescue operations.
On Friday, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister K Palaniswami had instructed officials to take steps to locate 30 fishermen on 11 boats who went missing at sea. The state government in a statement said the Fisheries Department and coastal security agencies had so far rescued 76 fishermen in 18 boats. However, officials were not available for comment on the rescue operations when contacted by IANS.
The Indian Coast Guard on Friday said two of its ships from Tuticorin had sailed out on Thursday for the search and rescue of the stranded fishing boats at sea. It also said its Dornier aircraft was launched for the coordinated sea air search for the missing boats. Late on Friday night, Prime Minister Narendra Modi spoke to Palaniswami over phone and assured the central government’s assistance for relief work.
Palaniswami told Modi that the state government would make detailed study on the damages and send a report to the Centre. The Chief Minister also told Modi that seven districts, mainly Kanyakumari and Tirunelveli, were affected by Cyclone Ockhi.