Officials and fishermen’s representatives, who were hitherto presenting contrasting figures on the number of fishermen missing or feared dead after Cyclone Ockhi, have almost come to an agreement.
While the district administration puts the figure at 237, fishermen’s representatives say that 238 are feared dead as there is no information about them ever since Ockhi devastated Kanniyakumari district on November 30 and December 1.
In other words, the total number of fishermen feared dead is 245, as eight have already been declared dead.
Of the 237 fishermen feared dead, 170 are from various hamlets of Kanniyakumari while 67 are from other districts and States – 19 from Cuddalore, 17 from Nagapattinam, four from Thoothukudi, one from Rameshwaram and 26 from Kerala, Uttar Pradesh, Assam and Andhra Pradesh.
After eight fishermen were declared dead based on the identification of bodies that were washed ashore, six more were identified by conducting DNA test. Since 31 more yet-to-be identified bodies are lying in various hospitals of Kerala, kin of 125 missing fishermen have given their blood samples for DNA analysis.
Meanwhile, families of missing fishermen want the government to declare their breadwinners ‘dead’ if they fail to return by December 31. After the last hope of seeing their breadwinners at least during Christmas was dashed as they did not return, the families have started conducting Holy Mass in memory of the missing fishermen.
“Extensive searches to locate the missing fishermen have been conducted in places our fishermen usually go for fishing, but in vain. Chances of survival are very remote and hence they should be declared dead on December 31 as it will enable the families to get the compensation of ₹20 lakh and a government job. Otherwise, it will trigger strong protests,” says Rev. Fr. Churchill, general secretary, South Asian Fishermen Fraternity.
Even as the district administration is getting ready to receive the Central team visiting the district for two days from Thursday to assess the damage caused by the cyclone and consequent downpour, work on meeting the fishermen’s demand of declaring the missing fishermen as ‘dead’ has started, it is reliably learnt.