Kochi: Over 270 fishermen have not returned to the Thiruvananthapuram coast, triggering widespread panic in the coastal belt which has been hit by Cyclone Ockhi. A marine engineering vessel, around 28 fishing vessels from Poonthura harbor and six boats from the Kollam coast are stranded in the sea.
Twelve fishermen from Cherthala are also missing. A search operation has been launched by the Arthungal police for the three boats carrying them.
The fishermen had ventured out into the sea for their routine catch before the alerts came and have just enough food and fuel to last them a night as they were supposed to return by 10 am Thursday.
Manorama news reported that a larger boat that had rescued around 15 stranded fishermen was unable to come to the Thiruvananthapuram shores due to the turbulant sea and was moving towards the Kollam coast.
According to the met office, the waves may reach a height of 4.2 meters and the cyclone is unlikely to make a landfall in Kerala.
Kerala minister Kadakampilly Surendran, who was speaking to the mediapersons in the Thiruvananthapuram coastal area said that the rescue boats of the Indian Navy were pressed into service to look for the missing fishermen. He also said that Air Force choppers have joined the rescue mission.
The minister also said that around 40 non-motorized boats were caught in the turbulant weather adding that he has already received a list of missing persons.
The Indian Navy has deployed four ships to locate and rescue the fishing boats and the marine engineering vessel, reportedly adrift off the Vizhinjam coast in the district following Cyclone Ockhi.
"Following Ockhi that has developed in the Indian Ocean off Kerala, the Southern Naval Command has deployed Indian Naval Ships Shardul, Nireekshak, Kabra, and Kalpeni and two aircraft based in Kochi," a press release issued by the Indian Navy on Thursday said.
The Category II A tropical cyclone was anchored 60 km off the coast of Thiruvananthapuram at 9 pm Thursday night, causing widespread damage in the southern districts of Kerala.
The ships and aircraft would carry out search and rescue operations in the area and would continue to stay put at sea for any assistance.
The Southern Naval Command is ready to provide any humanitarian assistance and disaster relief.