The Directorate General of Shipping on Tuesday said it will conduct a thorough probe into the conditions and reasons behind the two barges going adrift near Bombay High despite early warnings of cyclone Tauktae. While a daredevil rescue operation conducted jointly by the Indian Navy and the Coast Guard continues, questions are being raised on why so many people were on barges despite warnings ahead of the severe cyclonic storm.
The cyclone sank Barge ‘Papaa-305’ that had living quarters for employees working offshore, while two other construction barges lost anchors and drifted away. The three barges, which Afcons deployed for a contract the company had got from ONGC, had 599 workers on board when the cyclone hit.
“These are residential barges. So a high number of people can live on them. But it is unusual that despite a cyclonic warning through several sources, such a large number of people continued to stay on board," an official told CNN-News18.
“We are duty-bound to conduct a probe in this matter. It will be a thorough probe about why so many people were on board, and what were the conditions under which the barges went adrift," said Amitabh Kumar, DG Shipping adding that the current agency is to rescue the workers. However, when asked if this could be termed a lapse, he said only a thorough investigation would lead to any conclusion.
There are several ways through which vessels and ships in the seas are given weather warnings. In the case of cyclone Tauktae, SOPs were followed.
“Thousands of vessels, fishing boats, trawlers and ships were informed about the cyclone in advance notice. All of them were asked to move to safety. It will need to be investigated about what were the plans of these two barges," an official said.
All the 137 persons onboard barge ‘Gal Constructor’, which runs aground about 48 nautical miles north of Mumbai’s Colaba Point, have been evacuated.
Barge ‘Support Station-3’ had 201 persons and is drifting North-West but is clear of all operational installations of Mumbai High - India’s biggest oilfield. Operations to bring these persons to safety are on, according to reports.
Rescue vessels including ‘ICGS Shoor’ of Coast Guard have reached ONGC’s drillship ‘Sagar Bhushan’, which lost its anchors and started drifting north, reports PTI.