'Severe cyclone' Ockhi to intensify in Tamil Nadu, Kerala; death toll reaches 12

More rain is expected in most places in Tamil Nadu and Puducherry in the next 24 hours.

'Severe cyclone' Ockhi to intensify in Tamil Nadu, Kerala; death toll reaches 12
PTI photo

CHENNAI/THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The death toll in rain-related incidents in Kerala and Tamil Nadu rose to 12 as heavy rains triggered by Cyclone Ockhi battered southern coastal areas on Friday, crippling normal life. 

On Saturday, the Indian Navy continued the search and rescue operation of missing fishermen off the Kerala Coast as heavy rains lashed Tamil Nadu's Tirunelveli.

Following are the 10 developments on Cyclone Ockhi:

More rains expected:

The Central Water Commission (CWC) said the pouring might trigger a rapid rise in the water level of the rivers in the two southern states. The advisory added that west-flowing rivers in Thiruvananthapuram, Kollam, Pathanamthitta, Idukki, Kottayam, Alappuzha and Ernakulam in Kerala were likely to rise over the next 24 hours and then, slowly fall as the rains reduced.

As per Regional Meteorological Centre Director S Balachandran, 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 system is likely to move towards north Tamil Nadu and south Andhra coast in the next four days. 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.

Worst affected areas:

The worst-affected districts were Thiruvananthapuram and Kollam where several trees were uprooted. 

At Vizhinjam, a woman was crushed under a tree, while in Kollam, an auto driver died after a tree fell on his auto.

In the suburban town of Kattakada near Thiruvananthapuram, a couple was electrocuted when they came in contact with a live wire that snapped and fell on the road after a tree hit an electric pole.

In Kanyakumari, Tirunelveli and Tuticorin districts, heavy rains and gusty winds uprooted 579 trees. 

More than 500 trees were uprooted in the district as the rains accompanied by gusty winds left a trail of destruction in the district. Trees in the premises of the famous Padmanabhapuram Palace too were uprooted. A portion of roof-tiles was also damaged.

CM takes stock of the situation

The Tamil Nadu government on Friday said over 1,200 persons affected by Ockhi cyclone in Kanniyakumari and Tirunelveli districts have been lodged in relief camps, as Chief Minister K Palaniswami took stock of the situation.

At a review meeting in Chennai, CM Palaniswami asked officials to expedite all works undertaken in the affected areas, even as scores of personnel have been deployed to address various issues, including restoring the power network. He also announced a solatium of Rs 4 lakh to the kin of each of the victims.

As per the orders of CM Palaniswami, 1,044 persons in Kanniyakumari have been lodged in 16 relief camps while the number was 205 in two camps in Tirunelveli.

In Kerala, CM Pinarayi Vijayan, after a review meeting, said the government is yet to know the exact number of persons who had put to sea. He said the state has asked the defence ministry to deploy more aircraft for rescue operations in view of the cyclonic storm moving towards Lakshadweep.

The state government has opened 29 relief camps in various places. A total of 2755 people, from 491 families are in these camps

218 fishermen rescued: 

A report from Thiruvananthapuram 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 even as the death toll rose to seven in the state.

The rescued fishermen included 60 who were saved by a Japanese cargo vessel.

In Delhi, Union Minister Pon Radhakrishnan sought Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman's help to rescue fishermen stranded in the sea.

Naval ships deployed:

Several naval ships have been deployed for rescue operations as Cyclone Ockhi, that created massive destruction in Tamil Nadu and Kerala is now moving towards Lakshwadeep Islands.

"CGS Samarth sailed from Kochi for rescue. All the seven units are directed to work for rescue along and off Kerala coast. In addition, the Eastern Naval Command will launch P8i Maritime Patrol aircraft," said the Defence Minister. 

Six warships and two coast guard ships have been deployed along with additional air effort.

Schools closed:

With rains continuing to hit normal life in south Tamil Nadu, authorities declared a holiday for schools and colleges in five districts, including Kanyakumari on Friday.

Trains delayed: 

Southern railway officials said some train services in Kanyakumari and Nagercoil were cancelled while others ran late.

Lakshadweep islands hit:

Lakshadweep MP PP 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.

Oppn slams Kerala ruling LDF:

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.