Amid signs that Cyclone Ockhi might intensify in next 24 hours, parts of Tamil Nadu, Kerala hit by heavy rain, 200 fishermen stranded off Kerala coast rescued

The Indian Navy and the Coast Guard continued the search for missing fishermen using ships, Dornier aircraft and helicopters in the “rough sea” off Kerala and Lakshadweep on Saturday amid reports that Cyclone Ockhi, which has already wreaked havoc in the region, could intensify further over the next 24 hours.

While over 200 fishermen who were stranded at sea off the Kerala coast have so far been rescued, there appears to be no estimate yet of the number of persons who have gone missing since Cyclone Ockhi hit Kerala and Lakshadweep Islands.

According to reports by news agency PTI, while INS Nireekshak, INS Jamuna, and INS Sagardhwani of the Indian Navy are continuing search and rescue operations in their designated areas along the coast off Vizhinjam in Thiruvananthapuram and Kollam, two ships INS Shardul and INS Sharda are heading towards Lakshadweep, a defence spokesman said on Saturday.

The naval ships, which left the Southern Naval Command on Friday, are likely to reach Lakshadweep by Saturday evening amid reports of heavy destruction of life and property brought on in the islands by the cyclone. There are also unconfirmed reports that the Ockhi, which has already pummeled large parts of Kerala and Lakshadweep over the past few days, could turn into a super cyclone bySunday.

The intensity of the cyclone has already made it very difficult for rescue operations to be carried out effectively. A defence ministry spokesman said on Saturday that about eight boats from Kerala with 36 people on board are perhaps adrift at sea off the Kalpeni island.

Meanwhile, 15 fishermen rescued by the Coast Guard are being brought to the Thiruvananthapuram coast while four fishermen were rescued by a Navy chopper on Saturday morning, 20 miles off Kochi.

According to the Indian Meteorological Department, the cyclonic storm is likely to continue moving on a west-northwest trajectory across the Lakshadweep Islands over the next 24 hours and could then re-curve northeastwards during the subsequent 48 hours.

In line with Cyclone Ockhi’s expected movement, the Met department has issued a ‘high wind’ alert for the Karnataka, Goa and Konkan coasts over the next couple of days. Heavy rain has been forecast for Lakshadweep for Sunday, accompanied by gale-force winds reaching speeds of up to 100 km/hr gusting to 110 km/hr. Squally winds with speeds reaching 45- to 55 km/hr and gusting to 65 km/hr are forecast for the Karnataka coast through Sunday.

Official sources said heavy to very heavy rain would start lashing the Tamil Nadu and Puducherry coasts from Tuesday, announcing the arrival of another possible cyclone that could emerge from the South Andaman Sea and hit the Tamil Nadu-Andhra Pradesh coast around the same time as Cyclone Ockhi is expected to reach the India’s West Coast.