Defence Minister meets cyclone Ockhi-hit families in Kerala, assures help
T’puram, Dec 4: A day after Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan faced ire from coastal people over the delay in the rescue operations, Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Monday met the fishermen families affected by cyclone Ockhi at Vizhinjam. “The search and rescue operations by the Indian Navy, Coastguard and Air Force will continue with full vigour,” the Defence Minister assured.
On Sunday, when Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan visited Vizhinjam, local people had protested furiously against him alleging that the state government delayed the rescue operation. Amid the protests, Pinarayi couldn’t get into his car after which he boarded another cabinet minister’s car on his return journey.
Speaking to media persons, after meeting the affected families, Nirmala Sitharaman said that she would not lose hope and would leave no stone unturned in finding the fishermen stranded in the sea. “I will not lose hope even for a minute, because if the boats, which went out 15 days back, can come back with the fishermen alive, then we will make every attempt to bring everyone back,” Sitharaman said.
The Defence Minister further informed that 11 fishermen are also accompanying the Navy in the search operations. “Fishermen were asking if they could join the search operations, and I agreed. Now 11 of them are already in search helicopters, so with the cooperation of fishermen, we will continue our search and rescue teams,” she said.
Giving a rundown of the operation carried out by the Indian Navy, the Defence Minister said that she is duly updated every hour by the officers in the navy and the coast guard about the whereabouts of those found. “I have spoken to the Chief Minister of Maharashtra to ensure that those boats, which have reached there, be given safe care and share of food and clothing. When the seas are calmer, they can come back,” Sitharaman added.
She also appealed to fishermen in the coastal belt of Vizhinjam and Poonthura not to be angered towards the authorities and instead support their efforts for the rescue operations. “The state government and the centre are doing everything possible for the rescue operation. Even during the tsunami the government machinery did not act like this. I appeal you to trust us and we will bring back those missing fisherman,” she said.
Sitharaman had also visited Kanyakumari on Sunday to take stock of the situation in the wake of the cyclonic storm, which has tormented the coastal areas of Tamil Nadu and Kerala and now Lakshadweep islands.
She informed that, so far, 357 fishermen, including 71 from Tamil Nadu, who had been stranded in the sea due to Cyclone Ockhi, have been rescued.
Earlier on November 2, the Tamil Nadu authorities stated that the total number of deaths caused due to cyclone Ockhi has reached 19.
The state department also said that at least 690 people have been rescued so far, while 96 were still missing.
It further stated that 63 people have been hospitalized, while 74 houses have been fully damaged and 1,122 houses have been partially damaged.
The deadly cyclone, which has claimed many lives, lashed out in the coastal areas of Tamil Nadu and Kerala on Saturday with torrential rainfall and gusty winds.