Amidst the fury inflicted by Cyclone Ockhi along the coast of Kerala, a controversy is now brewing over whether fishermen in the state were warned about the storm in time or whether this communication was delayed.
Three fishermen from Kerala who spoke to TNM said that that they got no intimation regarding the cyclone.
Albert, Mariadoss and Dominique from the coastal area of Poonthura in Thiruvananthapuram, who had ventured out on Wednesday morning, had a miraculous escape from the cyclone. They managed to reach home after spending 44 hours at sea.
Albert’s brother Andrews while speaking to TNM blamed authorities for not issuing an alert about the cyclone in time.
"Normally the Coast Guard issues a warning. But this time, there was none,” Andrews said.
However, the Defence Spokesperson told TNM that warnings urging fishermen not to venture out into the sea are issued by the state’s Fisheries Department. It is the responsibility of the Deputy Fisheries Director in each district to issue immediate weather warnings to the fishing community.
When asked if the warnings were conveyed without any delay this is what the Fisheries Department official had to tell TNM.
K Sreedharan Namboothiri, Private Secretary for Minister for Fisheries told TNM, “The Deputy Fisheries Director had informed the fishermen community not to venture out by Wednesday. We had not received any warnings of a cyclone from IMD till Thursday afternoon.”
He also added that, “It is IMD which predict and issue warnings of a cyclone, not us. We don’t observe the weather conditions like they do.”
Meanwhile, Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan also pointed out that a cyclone alert was issued only on Thursday.
"We received warning about the cyclone only Thursday afternoon. Prior to that there was a warning but not for a cyclone," the CM told reporters on Friday, adding that preparations for a cyclonic storm are different.
Meanwhile, Speaking to Asianet a top official from IMD and Indian National Centre for Ocean Information Service said that the advisories were sent to the Chief Secretaries of the concerned state governments through fax on Wednesday.
Dr K Satidevi from IMD said, “India Meteorological Department had issued a cyclone warning on November 29 (Wednesday) to the Chief Secretaries of all the states concerned through fax.”
Fisheries Minister Mercykutty Amma, however, sought to pin the blame on fishermen, arguing that they had not heeded warnings. “There was a warning about adverse weather, and we had informed fishermen. But it was not about a cyclone. Fishermen are used to rough weather and did not heed to the warning and ventured out,” she said.