CHENNAI/THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Heavy rains continued to batter coastal areas of Kerala and south Tamil Nadu on Friday, crippling normal life, even as Cyclone Ockhi lay centered about 80km north-northeast of Minicoy in Lakshadweep.
The death toll in the two states in rain-related incidents rose to 12.
As the toll due to Cyclone Ockhi in Kanyakumari district mounted to five on Friday, a low pressure system over the South Andaman Sea is expected to turn into a depression in the next 48 hours, which may bring more rain to Tamil Nadu.
The deaths occurred in cyclone-related incidents in the district. Chief Minister K Palaniswami announced a solatium of Rs 4 lakh to the kin of each of the victims, an official release said.
A report from Thiruvanathapuram said as many as 218 fishermen from Kerala, stranded in the sea off the coast due to inclement weather conditions, were brought safely to the shore on Friday even as the death toll rose to seven in the state.
In Chennai, Palaniswami took stock of the situation in the wake of the havoc wrought by the cyclone.
An official release said over 1,200 persons affected by the heavy rain in Kanyakumari and Tirunelveli districts, have been lodged in relief camps.
To expedite relief works in the worst hit Kanyakumari, two teams of National Disaster Response Force and seven teams of state disaster response agency have been deputed.
In Kanyakumari, Tirunelveli and Tuticorin districts, heavy rains and gusty winds uprooted 579 trees, it said, adding, efforts are on to remove them.
“A well marked low pressure is lying over South Andaman Sea and its neighbourhood. It is expected to concentrate into a depression in the next 48 hours,” Regional Meteorological Centre Director S Balachandran said.
The system is likely to move towards north Tamil Nadu and south Andhra coast in the next four days. “This is the current situation and we are monitoring the system.”
In the next 24 hours, more rain is expected in most places in Tamil Nadu and Puducherry. Heavy rainfall can be expected in Nilgiris, Coimbatore, Theni and Dindigul, he said.
Cyclone Ockhi, which in Bengali means ‘eye’, on Friday intensified into a severe cyclonic storm and moved to the Arabian Sea.
Widespread rain has been reported in Tamil Nadu and Puducherry with Papanasam (Tirunelveli district) recording 45 cm rain, Balachandran said.
The Coast Guard has deployed two ships – Vaibhav and Aadesh – besides a Dornier aircraft for search and rescue operations in the sea off Kanyakumari.
Tamil Nadu Minister for Revenue and Disaster Management R B Udhaya Kumar, deputed to Kanyakumari to monitor relief work, said steps have been taken to drain water from inundated areas.
More than 500 trees were uprooted in the district as the rains accompanied by gusty winds left a trail of destruction in the district on Thursday.
Trees in the premises of the famous Padmanabhapuram Palace too were uprooted. A portion of roof-tiles were also damaged, officials said.
With rains continuing to hit normal life in south Tamil Nadu, authorities declared a holiday for schools and colleges in five districts, including Kanyakumari.
Southern railway officials said some train services in Kanyakumari and Nagercoil were cancelled while others ran late.
In Delhi, Union minister Pon Radhakrishnan sought Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman’s help to rescue fishermen stranded in the sea.
A release from Radhakrishnan’s office said he urged Sitharaman to help deploy adequate number of ships, naval personnel and IAF to rescue the fishermen.
Sitharaman “assured” all help in this regard, it said.
Four people lost their lives on Thursday in rain-related incidents in Kerala while three persons died on Friday, official sources said.
According to the Chief Minister’s office, 218 fishermen, stranded in mid-sea off the coast since yesterday, were brought safely to the shore through active coordination of various agencies including Navy, Air Force and Coast Guard.
The rescued fishermen included 60 who were saved by a Japanese cargo vessel.
After a meeting to review the situation, chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan said government is yet to know the exact number of persons who had put to sea. But the effort was to rescue all those stranded in the sea, he asserted.
The state government has opened 29 relief camps in various places. A total of 2755 people,from 491 families are in these camps, government sources said.
The chief minister said the state has asked the defence ministry to deploy more aircraft for rescue operations in view of the cyclonic storm moving towards Lakshadweep.
Top Navy officials said they deployed two ships to the Lakshadweep Islands for carrying out rescue and rehabilitation operations in the island.
Vice Admiral A R Karve, Flag Officer Commanding-in-Chief, Southern Naval Command, said the Indian Navy is putting in “maximum effort” to rescue fishermen from the sea which is very rough under the influence of Ockhi.
In Lakshadweep, orders have been issued to evacuate people from low-lying areas in Kalpeni, Minicoy, Kavratti, Agatti, Androth, Kadamath and Amini islands, officials said.
Five boats anchored at a jetty in Kalpeni were damaged in heavy rains, coupled with strong winds.
Lakshadweep MP P P Mohammed Faizal said Kalpeni and Minicoy islands were badly hit by the cyclone but no casualties have been reported.
Faizal said seven persons were rescued from a sinking Uru, a large Dhow-type wooden ship, in the sea off Kavaratti.
The MP said he held telephonic talks with Home Minister Rajnath Singh who assured him that a team of officials from the ministry will be sent to assess the damage.
Precautionary measures have been taken at Kavaratti and Agatti where the cyclone is expected to hit tonight.
Anxious relatives of the missing fishermen, including women, today blocked traffic and raised slogans in Kollam and Thiruvanathapuram, protesting the delay in their rescue.
Opposition Congress and BJP in Kerala slammed the LDF government over the alleged delay in initiating precautionary measures and launching rescue operations for fishermen, who got stranded in the rough sea off the coast.
As per the latest MeT bulletin, the system is very likely to intensify further during the next 24 hours.
“It is very likely to continue to move west-northwestwards across Lakshadweep islands during the next 24 hours and then move north-northeastwards during the subsequent 48 hours,” it added.