Month after Cyclone Ockhi, pain lingers in Kerala hamlets

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Thiruvananthapuram, Dec 30 (IANS) Exactly a month after Cyclone Ockhi struck the southern districts of Kerala and Tamil Nadu, the pain lingers on in the coastal hamlets of Poonthura, Vizhinjam and a few others, with 75 dead and 143 still missing.

Sosamma’s tears continue to trickle down her cheeks as there has been no word about her husband’s return.

“What will I do from now on? I have three children to look after and there is no income,” wailed Sosamma, who lives near the airport here.

60-year-old Joseph is grateful to God for bringing him back to the shores after battling the waves for four days.

“Now I have a problem. As a result of being thrashed around by the waves for four days continuously, my eyesight and my left ear is not working properly,” said Joseph.

“I do not know when will I be able to get back to work, as I have problem with my left shoulder and my neck,” said Soonil, 54, who met with much of a similar fate.

In the rescue operations that were launched by the Air Force, Navy and Coast Guard, more than 1,000 fishermen were rescued from the deep seas, some of them after five days.

According to social workers who visited the coastal hamlets where tragedy struck, it was going to take quite a while before things go back to normal.

“We have been to these villages. We found out a scare prevails there. Some of them are in doubt if they will ever be able to get back to work again.

“A few rounds of counselling is urgently required for all those who are reluctant to get back to the sea. Even the families need advice,” said a social worker who did not wish to be identified.

Apart from carrying out the relief and rehabilitation programmes, the authorities still have 40 unclaimed bodies with them. A few rounds of DNA tests have been conducted.

A major relief for the Pinarayi Vijayan government came on Friday when the visiting central team took a “very considerate position” towards the state’s demand.

It has already sanctioned Rs 133 crore and another Rs 300 crore was expected to be released in the coming days.

The demands for long term measures for the overall development of the fishing community which runs into more than Rs 7,000-crore package would, however, have to wait for a while, as it will be decided by the various Union Ministries.

The Thiruvananthapuram Latin Diocese which is the livewire of these fishing hamlets, with a huge majority of the fisher folks being Latin Christians, has also chipped in with a Rs 100 crore package.

The state government is also relying heavily on them to ease the suffering of all those in pain.

As a mark of respect for the dead and suffering, many have cancelled their New Year’s celebrations.

Lawyers representing currently-serving transgender service members and aspiring recruits said they had expected the administration to appeal the rulings to the Supreme Court, but were hoping that would not happen.

Pentagon spokeswoman Heather Babb said: “As mandated by court order, the Department of Defence is prepared to begin accessing transgender applicants for military service January 1. All applicants must meet all accession standards.”

Jennifer Levi, a lawyer with gay, lesbian and transgender advocacy group GLAD, called the decision not to appeal “great news”.

The Obama administration had set a July 1, 2017, deadline to begin allowing transgender recruits to enlist.

Trump’s Defence Secretary James Mattis changed the deadline to January 1 before Trump announced his ban.