Ockhi alert on November 30: Home Minister Rajnath Singh

Not to be declared national calamity.

New Delhi: Home Minister Rajnath Singh said in the Lok Sabha on Friday that IMD had put out its first warning on Cyclone Ockhi, a rarest of rare, least predictable phenomenon, graduating from deep depression to cyclonic storm, on November 30. The statement has come as a virtual endorsement of Kerala Government’s consistent stance that the IMD’s first-ever warning on the cyclonic storm was issued at 12 noon on November 30, hours after it had wreaked havoc on the coast in terms of human casualties and fishing gear destruction.

Mr Singh was interrupted by MPs from Kerala and other States, pointing out that the IMD had goofed up and an inquiry must be ordered to fix the responsibility. Mr Singh rejected the demand for a probe, reiterating that the last such recorded phenomenon in this part of the world was in 1912. Dr Shashi Tharoor said the IMD had failed to issue the four-stage cyclone warning as laid down by the SOP of the National Disaster Management Authority. To which, Mr Singh replied that this was the kind of system that developed in to a cyclone in just about six hours.

However, the IMD had issued other alerts in previous days. He said existing norms precluded Ockhi being declared a national calamity, but he agreed to the demand for a lenient view, saying the cyclone could be classified as a calamity of a sever nature. He also assured that Kochi would be included in the NDRF’s quick response project. Congress members in the Lok Sabha alleged discrimination in providing central assistance to states hit by cyclone Ockhi. But the Government rebutted charges asserting that all possible help was extended to the affected people.

Responding to the short duration discussion on Ockhi, Mr Singh said the Navy, the Air Force and the Coast Guard were continuing efforts to trace missing fishermen and the government was providing financial and other assistance to the affected states. Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge asked why only four teams of National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) were sent to Kerala and three teams to Tamil Nadu, while seven teams of the force were deployed in Gujarat which was not affected. He accused the government of discrimination in providing help to states hit by Ockhi and said though the impact of the cyclone was severe in Tamil Nadu and Kerala, the Central assistance to these two states was inadequate.

( Source : Deccan Chronicle. )
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