With 15 people still missing from the sunken barge P-305 and 11 from tugboat Varaprada almost six days after Cyclone Tauktae barrelled through the Arabian Sea on its way to Gujarat, the Indian Navy on Saturday deployed specialised diving teams to boost the search mission.
“To augment the ongoing #SAR ops for the missing crew of Barge P305 & Tug Varapradha, specialised diving teams onboard #INSMakar with side scan sonar & #INSTarasa have sailed out early morning today from #Mumbai," tweeted the Navy spokesperson.
#CycloneTauktae #UpdateTo augment the ongoing #SAR ops for the missing crew of Barge P305 & Tug Varapradha, specialised diving teams onboard #INSMakar with side scan sonar & #INSTarasa have sailed out early morning today from #Mumbai.@DefenceMinIndia @indiannavy @mygovindia pic.twitter.com/GNoS1dyHIe— PRO Defence Mumbai (@DefPROMumbai) May 22, 2021
Sixty-one bodies have been pulled out of the sea so far. Hopes of finding more survivors of the Cyclone Tauktae fury have receded. Barge P-305, which housed personnel engaged in maintenance work of an offshore oil drilling platform of state-run oil and gas major ONGC, sank on Monday evening off the Mumbai coast during the cyclone. The barge had gone adrift in the cyclone fury before sinking.
Of the 261 personnel who were on barge P305, 186 have been accounted for. Of the 13 persons on Varaprada, two have been rescued while the search for the remaining 11 is on. While all the 440 persons on barges Gal Constructor and Support Station 3 (SS-3) and drillship Sagar Bhushan were brought to safety, Naval and Coast Guard vessels and aircraft scoured the waters off the Mumbai coast as the search and rescue operations entered the sixth day on Saturday. Mumbai police have announced they will conduct a probe as to why the ill-fated barge remained in the turbulent area despite warnings about cyclone Tauktae. The police have also registered accidental death reports in connection with the death of the personnel on the barge.
DNA tests to identify bodies
Meanwhile, struggling to establish the identity of 30 of the 61 victims of P-305 barge tragedy, the police have initiated the process of conducting the DNA testing of the bodies. Police have handed over the bodies of 28 victims to their families after post-mortem. However, the identity of 30 victims is yet to be established while some bodies are decomposed, some others have deep injuries and therefore they are beyond recognition, the official said.
In view of this, police have decided to get the DNA testing of the bodies done, he said. Accordingly, the blood samples of the deceased and their immediate relatives are being collected and sent to the Forensic Science Laboratory at Kalina in Santacruz, he said.
After the samples are matched, the bodies will be handed over to the respective family members, he said, adding that the DNA sampling process is expected to complete in the next three days. Besides this, RT-PCR test to ascertain whether these victims had COVID-19 infection, was also conducted on them, he said.