Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Monday rounded up her two-day visit to the southern districts of Tamil Nadu and Kerala struck by Cyclone Ockhi, saying the rescue operations will continue till the last fisherman stranded in the deep seas, is rescued and brought ashore.
Addressing reporters at the airport here, just before boarding her flight to Delhi, Sitharaman said she visited two fishing villages in Vizhinjam and Poonthura in Kerala and found that the people were under "severe stress and deep distress".
"I appealed to them that the search operations with even warships are going on and will continue till the last of the missing fishermen is brought back.
"I will not lose hope as the joint search operations have rescued fishermen who had ventured into the seas 15 days back.
"We have news that several boats have reached the coasts of Maharashtra, Goa and Karnataka.
"I have spoken to Maharashtra Chief Minister (Devendra Fadnavis) to see that these fishermen are given the space to remain there till the sea is safe for them to return," said Sitharaman.
She, however, refused to take questions on the criticism about the way the search operations have been carried out, since Ockhi struck off the southern coastline on November 30.
"I will keep my focus on the rescue and search operations," said the Minister and added that she would meet her colleagues, who handle the agriculture and home portfolios and pass on the message about the situation here.
"I have told the Kerala Chief Minister (Pinarayi Vijayan) to send recommendations on this," said Sitharaman.