Two years after Ockhi, Kanyakumari fishermen feel trapped in a whirlpool of misery

Eight years before the nightmare of Ockhi befell the southern coast, fishermen and their families were battered by another cyclone — Phyan. | All photos - Prabhakar Tamilarasu

C Gilbert, 57, can still feel the sting of the wind whipping his face, the angry sea leaping up to swallow his brother C Josebath. The fisherman from Tamil Nadu’s Kanyakumari district lost his brother to Cyclone Ockhi that struck the country’s southern coast two years ago in November, killing more than 250 people and ripping apart several homes and hearts.

Gilbert, Josebath and another fisherman Shallo, all residents of Chinnathurai village, had ventured out into the sea at 2 am on the fateful day. A few kilometres into the waters, the three men were ambushed by violent winds and rains. They were not new to such conditions, but that day was different. “It was abnormally windy and raining,” recalls Gilbert, who survived the cyclone.

“We thought the storm would calm down, but within hours our boat capsized. The three of us somehow managed to stay afloat by holding on to a raft. After sometime when the storm subsided a bit, we started swimming towards the shores.”

However, after swimming for nearly 36 hours, Josebath lost hope and started showing signs of giving up. “He let go of my hand and drowned. I couldn’t do anything,” Gilbert says, recalling the painful look on his brother’s face. Gilbert and Shallo were lucky enough to find a foreign vessel in the sea and reached Kozhikode in Kerala, from where they finally came home.

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