Whipped up by cyclonic storm Ockhi lurking off the coast, heavy rain and gale-force winds have pummelled the southern parts of the State since Thursday morning, wreaking widespread havoc and bringing normal life to a halt.
Squally winds uprooted hundreds of trees, snapped power and communication lines, toppled hoardings, destroyed houses and damaged crops across the southern districts. A holiday was declared for schools and colleges. Roads were flooded in many places, slowing down traffic.
A couple were electrocuted at Kattakada after they came into contact with a live electric line. Another person was crushed to death under a falling tree at Vizhinjam. The Air Force and Navy deployed aircraft, helicopters and ships to search and rescue 150 fishermen reported missing after setting out to sea from Thiruvananthapuram.
Train services between Kollam Junction and Kanyakumari were cancelled or rescheduled due to disruption of overhead traction supply caused by falling trees. Thiruvananthapuram district bore the brunt of the storm.
The district administration began preparing to evacuate families from the vulnerable areas along the coast.
In an emergency videoconferencing, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan directed Collectors in the southern districts to remain alert and coordinate government agencies for rescue and relief work.
A cyclone alert issued by the India Met Department has forecast heavy to very heavy rainfall at isolated places over South Kerala till Friday noon. Gale-force winds are also likely along and off South Kerala during the next 48 hours. The bulletin said Cyclone Ochki was expected to cause damages in Alappuzha, Kottayam, Idukki, Kollam, Pathanamthitta and Thiruvananthapuram districts.
The system which originated as a depression near the Sri Lanka coast on Wednesday intensified into a deep depression south east of Kanyakumari at 5.30 a.m. on Thursday and further strengthened into a cyclonic storm which lay centred 120 km southeast off Thiruvananthapuram. By evening, the storm was packing gale-speed winds up to 70 to 75 kmph gusting up to 85 kmph.
A press note issued by the IMD said the system was set to intensify into a severe cyclonic storm by Friday morning. Weathermen are closely tracking the path of the cyclone which is estimated to move in a west northwest direction towards the Lakshadweep islands.
The Indian National Centre for Ocean Information Services has also warned of rough sea conditions with high waves of 3 m to 4.2 m height till Friday noon along the Kerala coast from Vizhinjam to Kasaragod and along the Lakshdweep coast from Minicoy to Bitra. Fishermen in South Kerala and Lakshadweep Islands have been directed not to venture out to sea during the next 48 hours.