Ockhi cyclone: Search operations to continue in Kerala,Toll rises to 66

Thursday, Dec 14, 2017,11:33 IST By anju A A A

Thiruvananthapuram | The death toll in the Ockhi cyclone that hit the Kerala coast mounted to 66 with more bodies being recovered even as the Centre assured the state government that search operations would continue for the missing fishermen.

The state control room that monitors rescue and search operations for the missing fishermen in the cyclone that devastated the state’s coastal areas during November 29-30, put the death toll at 66 with 12 bodies recovered today.

Two bodies were found late last night, officials said.

Of the 12 bodies recovered today, nine were from Kozhikode, one each from Kochi, Thrissur and Malappuram.

Two bodies were recovered last night off Kochi.

According to officials, 95 fishermen are still missing.

Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan said the Centre has agreed to continue search operations for missing fishermen.

Defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman has agreed to continue the operations in the high seas as requested by the state, Vijayan told reporters here after a cabinet meeting.

However, the chief minister said complete information was still not available on the fishermen who put to sea during the cyclone.

Several fishermen had ventured into the sea in boats and some in “small crafts”, Vijayan said. The anxiety is about people who had gone in such small vessels, he added.

When it was pointed out that the Latin Catholic Church, to which most of the affected fishermen belonged, had disputed the official figure on missing fisherfolk, Vijayan said, “there is no need for dispute on that.”

The government has a figure of missing persons and if there were any more persons other than in the list, that also would be confirmed, he said.

In a bid to set up a mechanism to ensure safety of fishermen, Vijayan said a system was being planned in association with the Indian Space Research Organisation.

The chief minister said the government would speed up relief and rehabilitation work.

The Rs 20 lakh financial assistance for families of fishermen who died in the cyclone would be given at one stretch, he said.

“It will be given shortly without any hassle,” Vijayan said.

An sum of Rs five lakh would be given to those who were seriously injured and not able to go for work in the future as an “alternative livelihood” initiative.

Efforts were on to identify the bodies through DNA tests, he said.

Observing that the Centre seems to have understood the gravity of the damage caused by the cyclone in the state, Vijayan said Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh has assured him that a central team would visit the affected areas very soon.

Seeking the support of all sections of society for relief and rehabilitation of cyclone victims, he said all cabinet members have donated their one month’s salary to the Ockhi cyclone relief fund.

He urged government employees to donate three days salary and workers in other sectors one day’s salary to the fund.

Giving details of the measures planned for the victims, he said houses would be built for those who had lost it under the government’s Livelihood Inclusion and Financial Empowerment (LIFE) programme.