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What is a Barge and Why Were Hundreds of People at Risk Despite Cyclone Tauktae Warning Days Before

Search continues for people who were onboard Barge 305 that 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. The barge, on the path of the cyclone, had 273 people on board. The Navy’s Eye in the Sky, the P-8I aircraft, is airborne and looking for survivors at sea.

Search continues for people who were onboard Barge 305 that 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. The barge, on the path of the cyclone, had 273 people on board. The Navy’s Eye in the Sky, the P-8I aircraft, is airborne and looking for survivors at sea.

In the case of High Bombay, these serve as living quarters for men working on several offshore rigs of oil PSUs, mostly ONGC.

State-run Oil and Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC) has said a barge with 261 of its personnel deployed for offshore drilling in Bombay High in the Arabian Sea got de-anchored and started drifting because of the cyclonic storm Tauktae.

However, all the 261 people on board barge P305 are accounted for and barge has also been steadied.

It is interesting to understand what is a barge and what got so many people there.

What is a barge and how is it different from a usual ship?

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A barge is a flat-bottomed boat, especially built for river and canal transport of heavy goods. Barges these days are actually used to transport bulk items as the cost of hauling goods by barges are cheaper.

In the case of High Bombay, these serve as living quarters for men working on several offshore rigs of oil PSUs, mostly ONGC.

In most cases, also for High Bombay, a barge is un-powered, and thus needs to be anchored and has to be moved with the assistance of a tugboat.

What happened in Mumbai?

With the sea being rough right before cyclone Tauktae’s landfall, four barges went adrift off the Western Coast.

The Coast Guard and Navy rescued 146 men from a barge servicing ONGC offshore operations on the Mumbai coast.

Three other vessels adrift in other locations off the Mumbai coast with hundreds of workers aboard have also sent distress signals. On Tuesday, when the weather is likely to clear up, and helicopters can also be pressed into service.

There were an estimated 800 people on board in the four vessels, but there was no exact count.

Were authorities not informed?

The Indian Coast Guard has last Wednesday issued a warning to the mariners, shipping boats and fishermen ashore not to venture out at sea because of the cyclone.

ICG spokesperson, Commandant RK Singh had said taking a preemptive measure it has directed its Coastal District Commanders of Maharashtra, Goa, Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Lakshadweep Islands to relay the weather warnings to the mariners at sea in general and fishing boats, in particular, to take shelter in nearest port or shore.

The NDRF has deployed five separate teams for each of the states. The IMD had issued warning five days in advance. Despite all of this, more than 800 people were put at risk.

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first published:May 18, 2021, 13:09 IST