(G.N.S) Dt. 26
Kerala joined the world in Christmas celebrations on Monday with Christians thronging churches for Holy Mass and special prayers across the State but much of the day’s traditional colour and cheer were taken away by the pain and losses brought about by Cyclone Ockhi that wreaked havoc in the coastal region almost a month ago.
There were no celebrations in the fishing hamlets of Thiruvananthapuram like Poonthura, Vettukad and Vizhinjam which had borne the maximum brunt of the cyclone as people continued their wait even on Christmas day for the return of their dear ones who had gone to sea before the storm hit the coast almost a month ago knowing that their wait most probably was meaningless.
The Latin Catholic Church to which majority of the fishermen in Thiruvananthapuram belonged had taken a decision not to have any formal or special celebrations for this Christmas in the parishes like Vizhinjam, Poonthura, Adimalathura and Thumba as the fate of scores of fishermen who had gone to sea from there before the cyclone was still uncertain.
Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan wished a Merry Christmas for all Keralites but the main point in his Christmas message was: “There should be care for the poor. We should be willing to feed them. For this Christmas, let us stand by our brothers and sisters who are going through pain in the context of the continuing miseries brought about by Cyclone Ockhi.”
In his message to Keralites on the special day, Governor P Sathasivam wished that Christmas enrich people’s lives with the eternal spirit of love, compassion, generosity and forgiveness and strengthen social harmony. Cardinal Baselios Mar Cleemis led the Holy Mass at the St Mary’s Cathedral of the Syro Malankara Catholic church at Pattom, Thiruvananthapuram.
Leading the special Christmas services at the St Joseph’s Metropolitan Cathedral at Palayam in Thiruvananthapuram, Latin Catholic Church’s Archbishop M Soosapakiyam said the Church was considering a comprehensive package for rehabilitation of the cyclone victims. He also called for helping the next of kin of the victims. Almost all Christian families in Poonthura gathered at the St Thomas Church there for Midnight Mass on Sunday not for singing carols but for praying for those who were killed in the cyclone and those who were yet to return from sea. After Vicar Justin Jude read out from the Gospel According to Matthew, the church courtyard turned into a venue for wailing and weeping.Visiting the cyclone-affected families in Vettukad fishing hamlet in Thiruvananthapuram on the Christmas morning, Devaswom and Tourism Minister Kadakampally Surendran of the CPI(M) assured the fisherfolk that the financial assistance the Government had declared earlier for the families of those killed in the cyclone would be distributed without delay.Stating that the search in the sea for the missing fishermen would continue till the last missing man was found, the Minister said that 133 fishermen were yet to return from the sea. “The Government will ensure that the relatives of the fishermen who have gone missing and have been considered as dead are getting all required assistance,” he said.
The Government had the other day said 208 fishermen who had gone to sea before Cyclone Ockhi hit were yet to be found and 166 of them were from Kerala. As per the Government’s estimates, the cyclone had claimed 74 lives and 32 of the bodies found from the sea were yet to be identified. However, the Church is insisting that 317 fishermen are yet to be found.Meanwhile, a report quoted the Revenue Department as confirming that six fishing boats of a group of nine that had gone to sea from Kochi before the cyclone hit the State’s coast had been destroyed in the storm while there was no information about three boats. It is said that the nine boats had been carrying 92 fishermen. As per the report, 15 of the 92 fishermen were from Thiruvananthapuram while the remaining fishermen belonged to Tamil Nadu. The six boats that were destroyed were said to have been carrying 64 fishermen. More than 200 long-distance fishing boats had left the Thoppumpady harbor in Kochi before the cyclone and most of them had returned in the past weeks.
(G.N.S) Dt. 26