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32 Catholic Fishermen Dead, 200 Missing After Cyclone Hit South India

Thursday, December 7, 2017, 13:15 (IST)

A cyclone that hit the coasts of south India has claimed the lives of at least 32 poor Catholic fishermen who were out fishing, and over 200 were missing.

Cyclone Ockhi battered Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Lakshadweep coasts during the last week. Now, the first tropical storm of the season has moved towards north Maharashtra and Gujarat.

Thousands of residents from the coastal regions of Kerala and Tamil Nadu have relocated to relief camps by Dec. 4. About 200 houses were devastated in Kerala, said J. Mercykutty Amma, state Fisheries Minister.

Most of the dead were from the Catholic community who had gone out to sea, said Fr V. Wilfred, a priest of Vizhinjam parish, a village near Thiruvananthapuram in Kerala.

According the fishermen, the officials hadn't warned them of the storm.

Antony Silvaster, a Catholic fisherman in Vizhinjam village, said that with 200 fishermen missing, the villagers expected the death toll to rise.

The Catholic Bishops' Conference of India (CBCI) expressed grief and offered prayers for the families affected by the cyclone.

"We offer our condolences to the families of all those who have lost their lives and we wish to comfort those who have been afflicted by pain and suffering caused by the devastating hurricane in the past few days," said Bishop Theodore Mascarenhas, secretary general, CBCI.

The bishop has also requested the dioceses throughout India to offer prayers during masses on Dec. 10.

According to Crux, Archbishop Soosa Pakiam of Trivandrum and local priests visited the devastated area and prepared for the supply of relief necessities.

The Kerala government has set 29 camps for an estimated 3,000 people who vacated their homes due to Cyclone Ockhi.