The death toll in rain-related incidents in Kerala rose to 19 even as more than 600 fishermen, stranded at sea off the state's coast, were rescued, official sources said today. The very severe cyclonic storm 'Ockhi' lay centred today over east central and south east central Arabian Sea, they said. The death toll in rain-related incidents in Kerala climbed to 19, with six more bodies being recovered, the sources said. Eleven of the dead are from the coastal areas of Thiruvananthapuram. Yesterday, six bodies were recovered, taking the toll from seven to 13. An India Meteorological department (IMD) bulletin said 'Ockhi' has moved further north-northwestwards with a speed of 12 kmph during the past six hours and lay centred about 440 km west-northwest of Amin Divi, 870 km south-south west of Mumbai and 1,070 km south-south west of Surat. It is very likely to move north-northwestwards for some more time and then recurve northeastwards towards the south Gujarat coast during next 72 hours, it said. According to the sources, 690 fishermen have been rescued in combined operations carried out by the Navy, Coast Guard and Air Force. Ninetysix fishermen are still missing, they said. Sixtythree houses have been fully damaged and 74 partially.
A total of 6581 persons have been shifted to various relief camps in the state. A fresh spell of rainfall is expected to lash Tamil Nadu as the well-marked low pressure area over the south Andaman Sea is likely to turn into a depression in the next 24 hours and a deep depression in the subsequent 48 hours, the Met office said. Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman reviewed the search and rescue operations in Tamil Nadu and Kerala with senior officials. A total of 357 fishermen, including 71 from Tamil Nadu, stranded in sea due to Cyclone Ockhi, have been rescued by defence force personnel, she said. A photograph on her official Twitter handle showed her inside a helicopter reviewing the search and rescue operations in Tamil Nadu's Kanyakumari. "An update on the search and rescue efforts being done by the Indian Navy, Coast Guard and Air Force to save the lives of fishermen affected by #CycloneOckhi: 357 fishermen have been saved as of 10 am today," she wrote on her official Twitter handle. On her arrival in the worst-hit Kanyakumari district by helicopter from Thiruvanathapuram in Kerala, Sitharaman held discussions with deputy chief minister O Panneerselvam, ministers and officials. A report from Kanyakumari said she visited some cyclone- hit areas in the district. The defence minister assured authorities all help from the Centre and told officials to take steps to mitigate the sufferings of the people. She also heard people's grievances. Chief Minister K Palaniswami said in Coimbatore that work to rescue fishermen was on in full swing with the Air Force, Navy and Coast Guard deploying aircraft and ships. "Amma's (late Jayalalithaa) government will rescue all the stranded fishermen," he said. Power connection will be fully restored in a day or two in cyclone-hit Kanyakumari district, he said. In Kanyakumari, Panneerselvam reviewed the situation with officials and inspected several areas that were badly hit by the cyclone. Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan along with Union minister Alphons Kannamthanam held a high-level meeting in Thiruvanathapuram to assess the post Ockhi situation and relief and rescue operations. The search will continue until all the fishermen are rescued, an official release said. Sitharaman will visit some of the affected areas in Thiruvanathapuram tomorrow morning, the sources said. Vijayan visited Vizhinjam near Thiruvananthapuram this evening where several fishermen had gone missing. Talking to the families of the fishermen, Vijayan said the government shared the concern of the fishing community. "We can expect good tidings. Our effort is to find out the remaining missing fishermen," he said. Local people complained that there was no information about their missing relatives who had gone to the sea for fishing five days ago. Angered over the reported delay in locating the missing fishermen, about 100-odd fishermen in 40 boats went to sea today in search of their missing counterparts. Local people also protested in coastal areas, including Alappuzha and Chellanam in Ernakulam district, on the alleged delay in rescuing the fishermen. Some of them squatted on rail tracks and were removed by the police. Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis said 28 more boats, carrying 321 fishermen, which were caught in rough seas due to Cyclone Ockhi, have safely reached Maharashtra's Ratnagiri coast. Of these, 23 are from Tamil Nadu, three from Kerala and two from Karnataka, he said. Lakshadweep MP Mohammad Faizal said Lakshadweep Islands has suffered a loss of over Rs 500 crore due to the cyclone. Faizal sought the Centre's assistance to restore normal life in the islands isolated by the storm. He said normal life in three islands -- Minicoy, Kalpeni and Kavaratti -- was badly hit by the cyclone. Squally winds speed reaching 50-60 kmph gusting to 70 kmph is very likely over Lakhshadweep during the next 12 hours, according to the latest MeT bulletin. Sea conditions will also be very rough, it said.
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