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Church threatens to launch stir against government over cyclone response
BY Ashraf Padanna December 08, 2017
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TRIVANDRUM: The Latin Christian archdiocese here has threatened to launch an agitation against the state government for mishandling the worst cyclone crisis that had already taken 37 lives and left hundreds missing.

The state government had put the total number of missing fishermen from Kerala since the Cyclone Ockhi devastated Kerala coasts in the Arabian Sea overnight Nov.29 at 91, which it revised to 96 on Thursday.

But the church says the parishes under the archdiocese in the capital district alone had a list of more than 200 people missing since the cyclone struck.

“The parishioners are agitated at the slow or lack of response to the tragedy on the part of the state government,” said Eugene Pereira, the vicar general of the Latin church here. “Of the men who had ventured into the sea in risky country boats and small watercraft (fitted with small portable outboard engines) alone from here, 108 are yet to return. The government is fooling us.” He said the fishing community was agitated and the church was finding it difficult to pacify them. Hundreds of fishing families were camping on the seashore for the past nine days expecting their dear ones to arrive.

They complain of the state leaving them in dire straights with the ruling politicians and officials keeping away. Last week, they turned away chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan who visited them belatedly, and he had to leave his car and take his colleague’s vehicle amid protests.

“If the government continues this attitude, we will take dead bodies of our men to the Secretariat, the seat of power, and lay siege. Don’t think you can take us for granted even in a tragedy of this magnitude.” In Ernakulam district of central Kerala, priests also joined a relay hunger strike that entered the fourth day on Thursday.

They say the authorities provide them with low-quality ration rice that they fear to feed their children. With hundreds of men still missing at sea for the second week and fishing came to a halt, they were facing near starvation.

The neighbouring Kanyakumari district of southern Tamil Nadu also witnessed massive protests on Thursday with coastal villagers taking to streets in hundreds and blocking the railways and highways on the Kerala border.

The Railway had to cancel seven trains as the protesters occupied tracks blocking them, demanding chief minister Edappadi K Palaniswamy visit them and announce a better compensation package.

Four more decomposed bodies were, meanwhile, found from the mid-sea on Thursday off Kochi. Two were found 100 nautical miles off the sea between Kochi and Alappuzha coasts, another 15 km away from Thottappally coast in Alappuzha, and one near Chettuva in Thrissur.

Two bodies were identified as fishermen from Vizhinjam in Thiruvananthapuram. Others are yet to be identified. Nine other bodies are still lying unidentified at government mortuaries in the state capital.

Meanwhile, Congress president-to-be Rahul Gandhi will visit the coastal villages here on Thursday in his first visit to south India after taking over as the party chief.

He was slated to take part in a rally here on Dec.1 culminating statewide roadshow of opposition floor leader Ramesh Chennithala that lasted for a month but postponed due to the cyclone.

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