Dec 6, 2017 – A tropical cyclone on the southern Indian coast over the weekend claimed the lives of at least 32 poor Catholic fishermen who were at sea with 200 missing and thousands of individuals displaced after their homes were destroyed.
The fishermen were all Catholics from the Kerala and Tamil Nadu states, according to local parish priest Fr. V. Wilfred of Vizhinjam – were not expecting stormy seas when they set out.
Antony Silvaster, a Catholic fisherman in the fishing village of Vizhinjam, also said there was no warning. He added that the fact that 200 fishermen are still missing suggested the death toll would rise.
The hardest-hit region was the southwestern tip of India’s coast near Kerala’s capital, Thiruvananthapuram after tropical Cyclone Ockhi began to develop near Sri Lanka last Thursday with gushy winds and heavy rain. The last major cyclone to hit that region was in 1941, making it a rare occurrence for the area.
The storm also affected thousands of locals who have relocated to relief camps that have been set up by the Kerala state government. Currently, there are 29 relief camps, which are sheltering around 3,000 people.
Local priests and Archbishop Soosa Pakiam of Trivandrum were said to have been visiting the affected area to help coordinate relief for the victims of the storm.
Additionally, Fr. Justin Jude of Poonthura noted that many of the locals have not only lost their homes and family members due to the cyclone, but also valuable equipment such as boats and nets. Fr. Jude also said that government aid should be provided to help the victims in their time of need.
Tropical Cyclone Ockhi is still active and is threatening heavy downpours with potential flooding in northwestern India, including Mumbai. However, the storm is expected to weaken significantly by Wednesday.