It might take days to understand the extent of the tragedy unleashed by cyclone Ockhi.
However, one thing can be said with certainty: we are facing one of the biggest natural disasters witnessed by Kerala. Ockhi which was formed as a result of the depression developed over the Bay of Bengal has shaken not only Kerala’s coastal zone but hilly areas as well. More than thirty fishermen from Poonthura villages alone who were out in the sea have not returned home even after four days. With the number of those missing in other areas of Kerala also added, the figure is likely to go higher. Lakshadweep and Minicoy are in a completely isolated state. . It might take even days to gauge the depth of the tragedy there. Reports say that the death toll and the extent of damage are likely to be higher than that what has emerged.
In the present times when technology has greatly advanced, there are several means to take required precautions foreseeing natural disasters. Unfortunately, the failure of the official machinery in grasping the intensity of Cyclone Ockhi and issuing warnings are what have led to many fishermen getting stuck at sea. The row between the Meteorological Department and different government agencies is intensifying over whether or not a warning was issued. This is least likely to die down even if cyclone Ockhi subsides; we are so much used to, and enamoured of controversies rather than problem-solving even during times of serious mishaps. An investigation should be carried out to dig at which point the warnings about cyclone Ockhi disappeared, and exemplary punishments meted out to the negligent officials. The government must immediately announce an inquiry as well which alone can avert the recurrrence of such grave flaws in future.
The 2012 report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) - the committee that studies climate change says that the climate situation impacted by human activity would increasingly lead to natural disasters in future. In short, Kerala being a littoral region, will be struck by the cyclone in the form of wind, heavy rain and surging waves. Therefore the state Disaster Management Authority and the mechanism to unify the relief works and rescue operations during the disaster, will have to be restructured or revamped in future. However, during this time when the intensity of the mishap touches its peak, the officials, politicians, media and the public should display greater restraint and vigilance. Half-truths and fake stories spread through the social media faster than the cyclone. On the basis of such stories, the hapless people in the coastal areas who live in grief over the uncertainty of the fate of their closed ones, are being misled and thrown into protests that are not unavoidable now.
The immediate focus of the government should be on co-ordinating the disaster-management operations overcoming the shortfalls in rescue operations. It is quite comforting news that close to 400 labourers could be rescued. But the fact that over 30 boats were launched for rescue missions in Vizhinjnjam-Poonthura region, in search of dearones, in spite of warning messages, speaks for the inadequacy of governemt's rescue oerations. And search sailing without adequate sefety gear may lead to painful tragedies – and the storm of protests this may engender may be more severe than Ockhi. This is also the time for voluntary organizations and social movements to get active for providing succour to the people affected by the tragedy, and for cooling their boiling hearts down to solace. Criticisms and emotional commentary are not the right political activity in times of disaster. We should be able to forget all differences and become a breeze of compassion that can overcome the ferocity of Ockhi. Of course, strict scrutiny of failures and trial of those responsible can follow that.