PM visits cyclone-hit TN, Kerala, Lakshadweep (Roundup)

Tamil Nadu and Kerala on Tuesday sought over Rs 17,500 crore for relief and rehabilitation work as Prime Minister Narendra Modi made a hurricane day-long visit to their coastal areas and Lakshadweep promising all help when he met the kin of fishermen who went missing after cyclone Ockhi hit the southern coast.

"This is not the time for lecture and I assure you that we will do everything to help you. That's why I have come. We are all with you and will do everything. With Christmas round the corner, we wish all the missing to return back," he said in brief remarks while meeting the families of the fishermen in Poonthura near Thiruvananthapuram.

Modi arrived at the Poonthura Community hall to interact directly with the families of the fisherfolk whose near and dear ones either died or remain missing, giving them a patient hearing as Union Tourism and IT Minister K.J. Alphons translated what they were saying.

It was after that the Prime Minister went on to the stage and spoke briefly.

"The cyclone hit Lakshadweep, Kerala and Tamil Nadu and many of the fishermen are yet to return. We have taken quick action by first sending Defence Minister (Nirmala Sitharaman). The whole country is with you in your grief," he said to claps from the grief-stricken families.

Kerala Chief Secretary K.M. Abraham made a power presentation highlighting the various needs of the fishermen. The Kerala government sought a Rs 7,340 crore package that included compensation for the 71 dead, help to the permanently disabled, construction of homes, educational assistance and writing off of loans and other programmes meant for the overall upliftment of the fisherfolk.

More than 250 fishermen from Kerala are still missing since the November 30 cyclone.

Governor P. Sathasivam, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, his cabinet colleagues and officials were also present at the meeting with Modi.

Later, Modi briefly met state BJP leaders, who sought speedy clearance of the package.

Congress leader Ramesh Chennithala expressed dissatisfaction over the fact that despite repeated pleas, their delegation was not given permission to meet the Prime Minister.

"It is strange that even while we are the opposition here, we were ignored and the BJP was given preference, which does not augur well," he told reporters.

Modi flew into Kerala from Lakshwadeep where the cyclone had damaged property and was received by Vijayan. Modi then went by helicopter to Kanyakumari in neighbouring Tamil Nadu before returning to Kerala in the evening and going to Poonthura.

In Tamil Nadu, Modi visited Kanyakumari and met representatives of fishermen and farmers affected by Ockhi.

The Tamil Nadu government has asked the Centre for Rs 9,302 crore towards relief and rehabilitation and urged the Prime Minister to declare the cyclone damage as a 'National Disaster'.

Large tracts of rubber and banana plantations were affected due to the cyclone.

More than 70 fishermen from the southern districts of Thiruvananthapuram and Kollam in Kerala died in the cyclone while more than 250 remain missing. According to officials, the cyclone killed 18 people in Tamil Nadu while several others are still missing.

--IANS

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(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

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