Under flak over the way rescue operations were handled, Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan on Wednesday said there was no advance warning about Cyclone Ockhi and cleared a slew of packages for those affected.Chairing his cabinet meeting, Vijayan also announced fresh measures to tackle similar calamities so that destruction could be minimized.Addressing reporters later, Vijayan said the first information the state government got about the cyclone was on November 30 noon."There was no advance information about Cyclone Ockhi at all. On November 30, at 8.30 a.m. the India Meteorological Department intimated about a very deep deep depression about 170 km off Kanyakumari (Tamil Nadu) coast."Even at that time, there was no mention of cyclone. And by that time fishermen had already ventured into the sea. "Even the union ministers who came here said there was no fault on the part of the state government and in an hour's time the defence personnel began rescue work."
Vijayan said this was one of the biggest ever rescue operations done. It was ongoing and would continue till the last fisherman was brought back."About 2,600 fishermen, including 1,130 Malayalees, were rescued and as per the records with us 92 are still missing," said Vijayan.Vijayan said already Rs 20 lakh had been announced to the kin of each person who died in the cyclone. Those who have been permanently disabled will get Rs 5 lakh each. In the next one week, all the adults engaged in fishing will get Rs 60 per day while their children will be paid Rs 45 a day as allowance.Free ration will be given to the coastal villages for a month, the Chief Minister said."All those who lost their fishing craft and gears will be compensated. The children of those killed and those missing will get free education and job training," said Vijayan.
The meeting also decided that from now on all those who go for fishing will have to register with the Fisheries Department every day."All the boats that go into the sea should be fitted with GPS facility where two-way communication regarding the weather will be available. "Two hundred people will be recruited to the Coastal Police and preference will be given to the children of fishermen who lost their lives or are missing," said Vijayan.Three different committees will be formed to look into the various issues being faced by the fishing community while the Disaster Management Authority will be reconstituted."We wish to thank the Centre and all those who helped us when the worst disaster struck. By and large the media did a good job but some sections of the media have to seriously introspect if they did the right job," added Vijayan.He said a request will be made to the Centre to declare this as a national disaster. A special package to mitigate the loss and destruction that took place will be submitted to the Centre.