At least 32 Catholic fishermen were killed when a tropical cyclone hit the southern coast of India over the weekend, CNA reports.
In addition, some 200 people are missing, and thousands of individuals have been displaced, after their homes were destroyed. The death toll is expected to rise.
The fishermen – who were all Catholic, according to local parish priest Fr V Wilfred of Vizhinjam – were not expecting stormy seas when they set out, according to UCA News. The fishermen were all from the Kerala and Tamil Nadu states.
Tropical Cyclone Ockhi began to develop near Sri Lanka last Thursday with heavy winds and rains. The hardest-hit region was the southwestern tip of India’s coast near Kerala’s capital, Thiruvananthapuram. The last major cyclone to hit that region was in 1941, making it a rare occurrence for the area.
The storm also affected thousands of locals who have relocated to relief camps that have been set up by the Kerala state government. Currently, there are 29 relief camps, which are sheltering around 3000 people.
Local priests and Archbishop Soosa Pakiam of Trivandrum were said to have been visiting the affected area to help coordinate relief for the victims of the storm.
Additionally, Fr Justin Jude of Poonthura noted that many of the locals have not only lost their homes and family members due to the cyclone, but also valuable equipment such as boats and nets. Fr Jude also said that government aid should be provided to help the victims in their time of need.