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Cyclone Tauktae: 81 Still Missing From Sunken Barge Near Bombay High; Choppy Sea Hampering Rescue

A rescued survivor being brought back by a Naval helicopter at Bombay High.

A rescued survivor being brought back by a Naval helicopter at Bombay High.

Search and rescue operations have continued since Sunday night but extremely rough seas have hampered operations.

Around 183 out of 261 people onboard barge P305 have been rescued so far, officials said on Tuesday evening. It first went adrift and subsequently sunk at Bombay Hight some 175 kms from Mumbai after de-anchoring as Cyclone Tauktae’s fierce wind speed created havoc at sea.

Officials in the afternoon had said search is on for 81 people who were on board Barge 305. The barge, on the path of the cyclone, had 273 people on board. Out of 273, 180 people were earlier reported to have been rescued. The numbers have since been updated.

The Navy’s Eye in the Sky, the P-8I aircraft, is airborne and looking for survivors at sea. A slight improvement in weather conditions has enabled naval helicopters to fly over the seas.

Sources in the Navy say there are many who are in the water, adrift since they would be wearing life jackets.

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The barge has its own rescue boat and life rafts but the 2 naval ships at sight — INS Kochi and INS Kolkata — have also put lifeboats and life jackets in sea. This to ensure that those adrift and not spotted so far have a chance at survival.

Search and rescue operations have continued through the night but extremely rough seas have hampered operations.

Also helping efforts are two offshore shipping vessels, Ahilya and Ocean Energy. Together, they have rescued 180 people from sea in extremely challenging circumstances.

Three more rescue operations are ongoing at the high seas. The barge ‘Gal Constructor’ with 137 persons on board has run aground about 48 NM North of Colaba Point. An Emergency Towing Vessel ‘Water Lily’, two support vessels and Coast Guard Ship Samrat are in vicinity for rendering assistance and evacuation of crew.

The Indian Navy and Coast Guard have so far rescued 314 people on board barge P305 and cargo barge GAL Constructor, officials said.

Naval Ship INS Talwar is on its way to render assistance to another oil rig Sagar Bhushan with 101 personnel on board and an accommodation barge SS-3 with 196 personnel on board. Both are adrift and presently located about 50 NM South East of Pipavav Port.

Despite bad weather search and rescue operation continues around Gal Constructor. 70 people onboard have been winched to safety by coast guard helicopters.

“The pilots flying out of DIU are strapped in the cockpit. As soon as the weather clears they fly to the sea, winch up people and drop them to the jetty," PRO of the Coast Guard said.

’72 Hours of Terror’

Meanwhile, crew members of the cargo barge GAL Constructor spent harrowing 72 hours in the Arabian sea before the vessel ran aground near Alibag, south of Mumbai, in the middle of cylconic storm Tauktae on Monday evening. Luckily, all of them were rescued by the Indian Navy.

However, many on another barge, P-305 which was deployed to service ONGC’s offshore operations closer to Mumbai were missing after they had to jump into choppy waters. 180 of its 261 crew members had been rescued, the Navy said.

Avinash Aadke, who was rescued from Gal Constructor, said the vessel was “out of control" for three days and help was being sought from the Coast Guard. But as the barge was anchored close to Alibag, the help was first redirected to other vessels. “As our barge got damaged, they (the Navy) set aside everything else and came to our rescue," he said, speaking from a naval facility after landing in Mumbai.

Those on accommodation barge P-305, deployed in the Heera Platform of Bombay High, about 35 nautical miles from Mumbai, faced an even difficult situation as it developed a hole. Undergoing treatment at a naval hospital in Mumbai, Satish Narwad, a crew member, said he spent the whole night in the sea while the cyclone passed overhead on its way to Gujarat.

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first published:May 18, 2021, 09:56 IST