Two barges with 410 persons on board have gone adrift off the Mumbai coast as the cyclonic storm ‘Tauktae’ over the Arabian Sea intensified into a very severe cyclonic storm on Monday. The Indian Navy that has been pressed into service has rescued 62 people so far, , adding the rescue operation would continue overnight. Its three warships — INS Kochi, INS Kolkata and INS Talwar — are undertaking the rescue operations. The barges, deployed for offshore drilling in Bombay High in the Arabian Sea, got de-anchored and started drifting.
The Navy said 60 personnel onboard Barge ‘P305’ have been rescued so far — 42 by INS Kochi and 18 by offshore support vessel ‘Energy Star’. In a separate effort, INS Kolkata has rescued two survivors from the life raft of vessel Vara Prabha. It then joined INS Kochi for the search operation of Barge P305 crew.
The Navy said ‘Gal Constructor’, a barge with 137 persons onboard ran adrift off Colaba Point due to engine trouble. The vessel has been approached by an emergency towing vessel ‘Water Lily’. The barge continued to remain adrift till last reports came in.
Earlier, Navy spokesperson Commander Vivek Madhwal said, “On receipt of a request for assistance for a barge ‘P305’ adrift off Heera oil fields in Bombay high area with 273 personnel onboard, INS Kochi was swiftly sailed with a despatch for search and rescue assistance."
“In response to another SOS received from barge ‘GAL Constructor’ with 137 people onboard about 8NM from Mumbai, INS Kolkata has been sailed with despatch to render assistance," Commander Madhwal said.
#CycloneTauktaeIn response to another SOS received from Barge 'GAL Constructor' with 137 people onboard about 8NM from #Mumbai, INS Kolkata has been sailed with despatch to render assistance. @indiannavy @SpokespersonMoD @DDNewslive @ANI pic.twitter.com/aWI9qR73V9— PRO Defence Mumbai (@DefPROMumbai) May 17, 2021
Earlier in the day, the state-run Oil and Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC) said all its personnel onboard barge ‘P305’are safe. “All the personnel are accounted for at 1300 hrs and barge has also been "steadied", an official spokesperson said. The Bombay High off the Mumbai cost is the largest oil and gas assets of ONGC. ONGC carries on offshore drilling from platforms in the Arabian Sea.
Commander Madhwal said several other ships and aircraft have also been readied for HARD (humanitarian assistance and disaster relief) operations in the wake of cyclone Tauktae. Earlier in the day, a naval helicopter rescued four crew members of an Indian vessel named ‘Coromondel Supporter IX’ that was adrift in the Arabian sea, Commander Madhawal said.
He said rough seas due to cyclone Tauktae resulted in flooding of the vessel’s machinery compartments rendering it without propulsion and power supply. “In a swift response to SOS by an Indian vessel adrift in the Arabian Sea, a naval helicopter was dispatched for rescuing the stranded crew of Indian flagged Tug ‘Coromondel Supporter IX’, which was adrift North West of Mangalore, Karnataka," he said.
He said the helicopter was sent after attempts to rescue the crew by a boat failed. About the Navy’s response to deal with the fallout of the cyclone, the spokesperson said 11 diving teams have been kept on standby for deployment in case of any request from state authorities.
He said 12 flood rescue teams and medical teams have also been kept ready for immediate response and deployment. “Repair and rescue teams have been formed to undertake urgent infrastructural repairs post-cyclone if required," Commander Madhwal said. “Various ships along the Western seaboard are standby with aid and relief material for immediate assistance to affected areas as required and to provide assistance to fishing boats/ small boats stranded due to rough weather," he said.
Commander Madhwal said the Navy’s maritime reconnaissance aircraft on surveillance are continuously broadcasting cyclone warnings to fishermen.
Meanwhile, responding to a distress call, Indian Coast Guard Ship Samarth rescued 15 crew from a fishing boat named Milad off the Goa coast. All crew are safe and boat is being towed ashore for safety.
The Army also said it is continuously monitoring the situation for likely intensity, maximum impact areas and anticipated relief effort in coordination with civil administration, IMD, National Disaster Response Force (NDRF), Indian Navy, Indian Coast Guard and other agencies.