Kerala on alert after depression in Arabian sea deepens

| | Kochi

Kerala’s coastal regions were on Tuesday put on alert as the depression over southeast Arabian Sea and adjoining equatorial Indian Ocean showed signs of intensifying into a deep depression.

Weathermen warned fishermen against venturing into sea along and off the coasts of Kerala, southern Tamil Nadu and Lakshadweep till Thursday.  They said on Tuesday that the depression might intensify into deep depression within 48 hours but the chances of it developing into a cyclonic storm were remote.

However, the Kerala Government, which had come under severe criticism for not issuing alert in time and failing to take precautionary measures for Cyclone Ockhi that lashed the State’s coast and the sea off it from November 30, did not want to leave anything to chance and issued strict instructions to all concerned departments for taking precautions.

The Chief Secretary, as instructed by Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, held an emergency meeting to assess the situation. Secretaries of Revenue, Fisheries and other concerned departments and representatives of the Meteorology Department and State Disaster Management Authority took part in the meeting.

Collectors of the coastal districts have been asked to keep Taluk-level relief centers ready and all ports and harbours were ordered to raise Signal 3 indicating bad weather. The Government asked the Kerala State Electricity Board to keep itself prepared to meet emergency situations. Taluk-level coastal control rooms will function round-the-clock till Thursday.

Reports from southern Kerala, especially the fishing hamlets of Thiruvananthapuram district which bore the maximum brunt of Cyclone Ockhi, said fishermen responded to the alert positively. The ship service between Beypore port in Kozhikode and Lakshadweep was suspended.

“At this point, there is no forecast about the depression affecting the State directly. What is to be done is to avoid going to sea,” said the Chief Minister even as the Coast Guard deployed six ships and four aircraft to bring ashore the fishermen who had gone to sea in the preceding days even as DGP Loknath Behera said the police were ready to meet any emergency.

“We have been advised by our (Latin Catholic) Church to completely abide by the Government’s instructions,” said Thomas Eugene, a fisherman at Vizhinjam in Thiruvananthapuram. Though a large number of boats that had gone to the sea from the southern districts had returned to the coast by Tuesday evening, 27 boats launched from Kochi were yet to return.

“There is no need to panic. The weather system right now is a depression. We cannot say at this moment whether it will turn into a cyclonic storm but chances are rare. Even if it develops into a cyclonic storm, all necessary precautionary measures are already in place,” said a scientist with the India Meteorological Department (IMD) at Thiruvananthapuram.

According to the IMD, the depression over southeastern Arabian Sea and adjoining equatorial Indian Ocean on Tuesday was moving north-northwestwards at 20 KMPH and it was very likely intensify into a deep depression in 48 hours. At Tuesday noon, the depression was 350 KM south-southwest of Thiruvananthapuram and 420 KM southeast of Minicoy.

The IMD said that the depression was very likely to set off squally winds with speeds reaching 45-55 KMPH gusting to 65 KMPH over the Comorin Sea, along and off the coasts of southern Tamil Nadu and Kerala coasts in the 48 hours till Thursday morning. Winds of similar speeds could occur over Kerala coast in the subsequent 24 hours, it said.

According to the IMD, fishermen should not venture into sea along and off the coasts of southern Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Lakshadweep and adjoining southeast Arabian Sea till Thursday as the sea condition will remain “rough to very rough”. The warning was applicable to the coasts of Maldives and Gulf of Mannar also, it said.

The department said that the system could bring rain or thundershowers to many places till Thursday over southern Tamil Nadu and isolated heavy rainfalls over southern Kerala on Wednesday and Thursday.

A weather scientist with the Cochin University of Science and Technology said that the depression was unlikely to intensify into a cyclonic storm. “The models available so far suggest that the depression may move towards Lakshadweep very slowly, then travel northwestward and dissipate off the Goa coast after Thursday,” he said.



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