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‘Ship was Unfit to Sail’: Chief Engineer of Tugboat Varaprada Calls its Sinking a ‘Man-made Disaster’

Specialised diving teams onboard INSMakar with side scan sonar sailed out from Mumbai. (PTI Photo)

Specialised diving teams onboard INSMakar with side scan sonar sailed out from Mumbai. (PTI Photo)

Francis K Simon, one of the two survivors from the tugboat, said the captain and the company underestimated the power of the cyclone.

The chief engineer of tugboat Varaprada, which sank during Cyclone Tauktae last Monday, has said that the ship was “poorly maintained” and not fit to sail.

Francis K Simon, one of the two survivors from the tugboat, said that despite the vessel being in poor shape, the “captain and the company took a chance and underestimated the power of this cyclone”.

Speaking to The Indian Express, Simon said, “Varaprada was poorly maintained and unfit to sail. I told DG Shipping officials that the tugboat was not fit for sea and asked how they had given it a licence to sail. It’s a man-made disaster that cost 11 innocent lives. I saw the crew dying. Their families are crying and asking me their whereabouts.”

Simon now wants strict action to be taken so that such an incident is not repeated. “The water gradually filled in the engine room and by afternoon I told Captain Nagendra Kumar that the situation is out of control and pleaded with him to inform our company and other authorities like Indian Coast Guard and Navy. Kumar sent the distress call only at 5 pm or 5.30 pm to the Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre. I believe there was a delay on his part in sending the distress call,” he was quoted as saying by Indian Express.

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“Glory (the company that owned Varaprada) ignored all safety measures,” he added.

Bodies of 62-year-old Nagendra Kumar, captain of Varaprada, and Umeed Singh, its second engineer, were among those that washed ashore at Valsad in Gujarat. They were identified by Simon from among several bodies that came ashore on the Maharashtra and Gujarat coast over the weekend.

All the 274 personnel who were on board barge P305 that sank and tugboat Varaprada that went adrift during Cyclone Tauktae fury have been accounted for with the recovery of 16 bodies along Maharashtra and Gujarat coasts, an official said.

”A total of 274 crew were reported missing on May 17 (261 from Barge P305 and 13 from Tug Varaprada). While 186 survivors from P305 and two from Varaprada were picked up at sea, 70 mortal remains (bodies) were recovered at sea by ships of Indian Navy and Coast Guard,” a Navy spokesperson said.

Rescue personnel had recovered 70 bodies, believed to be of P305 personnel, in the sea till Sunday. With 16 bodies washing ashore, the death toll in the tragedy at sea could rise to 86, another official said. As of now, the official death toll stands at 70 pending identification of the bodies washed ashore. INS Makar, a Navy survey catamaran equipped with side scan sonars, located the wreckage of P305 on Saturday in the vicinity of where it sank on May 17. The Navy had also deployed specialised diving teams to boost the search and rescue (SAR) operations. The SAR operations haven’t been call off yet, the spokesperson told PTI.

Rescue personnel had recovered 70 bodies, believed to be of P305 personnel, in the sea till Sunday. With 16 bodies washing ashore, the death toll in the tragedy at sea could rise to 86, another official said. As of now, the official death toll stands at 70 pending identification of the bodies washed ashore.

INS Makar, a Navy survey catamaran equipped with side scan sonars, located the wreckage of P305 on Saturday in the vicinity of where it sank on May 17. The Navy had also deployed specialised diving teams to boost the search and rescue (SAR) operations. The SAR operations haven’t been call off yet, the spokesperson told PTI.

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first published:May 25, 2021, 09:59 IST