The Kerala government today sought a central assistance of Rs 1843 crore in the wake of cyclone Ockhi devastating the state’s coastal stretches, leaving 37 dead and several others missing. Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan today met Home minister Rajnath Singh and Defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman, in Delhi and apprised them of the situation in the state post Ockhi.
Talking to reporters in Delhi after meeting the two ministers, Vijayan said the state had sought central assistance of Rs 1843 crore and Rs 300 crore assistance needed to be provided immediately. Singh assured him that a central delegation will visit Kerala soon to take stock of the situation, Vijayan said adding both the union ministers had responded positively. The search for missing fishermen will be extended beyond 500 nautical miles and help has been sought from countries like Oman which share ocean boundaries with India, he said. There are 13,436 fishermen, who have no land or houses. About 4148 fishermen have land, but no houses, he said. They should be brought under the Prime Minister’s Rural housing scheme in 2018-19 fiscal and necessary assistance provided. The state also asked the Centre to continue the search and rescue operations for 10 more days with reports emerging that some bodies had been sighted in high seas,he said.
Twentyfour ships, eight helicopters and dornier aircraft are continuing search operations. The Navy, Coast Guard and Air Force have been urged to continue the search operations for another 10 days. An urgent letter in this regard was sent by state Chief Secretary K M Abraham, to Rear Admiral R Nadkarni, Chief of Staff, Southern Naval Command, Air Marshal Rakesh Kumar Singh Bhadauria, AOC Southern Air command and Additional Director General K Natarajan, Coast Guard Commander (Western Seaboard), Mumbai, an official press release said. The chief secretary also stated that government had received inputs from fishermen stating that floating bodies had been spotted in the high seas.
The fishermen have also sought stepping up operations to retrieve the bodies and continue search for survivors. The health department has been instructed to mobilise adequate storage and treatment facilities for the retrieved bodies at Vizhinjam and along the important coastal centres. Yesterday, an all party meeting here had decided to approach the Centre for a special financial package. Thirty-seven persons have lost their lives in the cyclone which left several others missing, according to official sources. Defence sources said the Coast Guard has been searching around the northern atolls of Maldives. The Maldives fishing community has located an overturned fishing vessel 70 nautical miles off Makanadhoo today which has been positively identified as a Sri Lankan fishing vessel, the sources said.
Meanwhile, the Latin Catholic church head Archbishop Soosai Pakiyam expressed the church’s dissatisfaction over the rescue and relief operations. In a related development, relatives of missing fishermen picketed the national highway at Neyyatinkara in Thiruvananthapuram for five hours, protesting the delay in locating their kin.