Thiruvananthapuram: Thousands of fishermen on Monday took out a march to Raj Bhavan in Thiruvananthapuram, demanding a coordinated search operation to trace missing fishermen and a visit by Prime Minister Narendra Modi to Cyclone Ockhi-hit areas even as the toll rose to 42.
The fishermen from coastal villages in the district, under the aegis of the Latin Catholic church also demanded that the centre declare the calamity as a national disaster. The protesters, waving black flags and photos of the dead and missing fishermen, walked about 2km from Palayam to Raj Bhavan, raising slogans—bringing the traffic to a standstill on the busy stretch.
Addressing the gathering, Latin Catholic church head, archbishop Soosai Pakiyam, who led the march, said it was a matter of grave concern that still the authorities “are unable to come out with the exact number of fishermen missing in the cyclone". He wanted a coordinated effort by the fisheries department, marine enforcement and coast guard, to trace the missing men, who had put out to sea on 29-30 November, when the cyclone struck the state.
The toll in the cyclone and rain-related incidents rose to 42 on Monday with the recovery of two more bodies, about 100-150 nautical miles from the shore between Vizhinjam and Kochi, official sources said. The search operations by multiple agencies to trace the missing fishermen entered the 11th day on Monday. On Sunday, the fishermen in the coastal villages of Vizhinjam, Poonthura, Pozhiyur and Adimalathura had observed a day of prayer and sought central funds for rehabilitation of the affected families.
A message, read out during the special prayer meetings in the churches, had said the cyclone should be declared as a national disaster and urged the centre to provide more funds for rehabilitation of the victims. As per the figures released by the Latin Church, more than 300 fishermen were still missing, while official estimate of the missing men is 95.
The state government has also demanded a financial assistance of Rs1,834 crore from the centre in view of the loss suffered due to the cyclone. On 9 December, the government had requested the navy, the coast guard and the Indian air force to continue the search operations for the missing fishermen for another 10 days.