After facing criticism over its handling of rescue operations when Cyclone Ockhi hit the state, Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan on Wednesday reiterated his stand that his government did not receive an advance warning about the storm.
Ockhi hit the coast of Tamil Nadu and Kerala on November 30. As of Tuesday, the storm had killed 39 Indians, highlighting the lack of preparation in the country’s response to natural disasters.
“The government did not receive a cyclone alert over phone or email before November 30,” Vijayan said while briefing the media about the state Cabinet’s decisions in Thiruvananthapuram on Wednesday. “The India Meteorological Department published a fishery alert [warning fishermen to not venture out in the sea] on its website on November 29...We got the cyclone alert at 2 pm on November 30,” he said.
Vijayan’s statement, the second in four days, comes amid a war of words between the India Meteorological Department and the Kerala State Disaster Management about when the alert was sent.
The meteorological department claimed that it issued an alert on November 29, detailing the path the storm was likely to take towards southern Kerala, while the disaster management authority alleged that the department had only issued a fishing advisory, not a cyclone alert.
“We used the technical term ‘deep depression’ in our alert,” IMD Director S Sudevan had said on December 2. “It is a term used instead of cyclone. We handed over the alert to district collectors too,” Sudevan added.
Vijayan, however, claimed that the government acted promptly after Ockhi hit. “Ockhi was the first major cyclone to hit the state in 100 years. It was an unexpected tragedy,” he said.
He added that 92 fishermen from Kerala were still missing, and said he would request the Coast Guard, Air Force, Navy and the Centre to continue their search operations till the last fisherman is spotted.
The government also announced Rs 20 lakh for the relatives of the people killed in the cyclone.