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Cyclone Tauktae: 49 Dead, 38 Missing From Barge, Search Continues

The Indian Navy (IN) and Indian Coast Guard (ICG) continued their search for the 38 missing personnel.

Updated
India
4 min read

Video Producer: Naman Shah

Video Editor: Naman Shah

The Indian Navy (IN) and Indian Coast Guard (ICG) continued their search for missing personnel from a barge with 261 people, which went adrift and later sank near the Bombay High Fields, unable to withstand the fury of Cyclone Tauktae, officials said on Wednesday, 19 May.

So far, there are 188 survivors, including 186 crew members of Accommodation barge P-305 and two from Tug ‘Varapradha’ that have been rescued by Indian Navy ships and aircraft. 

A total of 49 mortal remains of the crew of Barge P-305 have been recovered so far. INS Beas at Mumbai disembarked the mortal remains of the deceased.

Survivors reached the coast of Mumbai on INS Kolkata and INS Kochi on Thursday morning, as the rescue operations continued over the Arabian sea.

  • Aircraft continue to search for the missing crew members.
137 crew of GAL Constructor, which had run aground off Mumbai, were rescued by the Indian Navy and the ICG.
  • 137 crew of GAL Constructor.
  • 137 crew of GAL Constructor.
  • 137 crew of GAL Constructor.
  • 137 crew of GAL Constructor.

Captain Ignored Warnings: Chief Engineer, P-305

Speaking to The Indian Express on Wednesday evening, Chief Engineer Rahman Shaikh who survived the deluge said that everyone on board could have been saved if 14 of the 16 accessible life rafts were not punctured and the Captain had taken cyclone warnings seriously.

“We received the cyclone warning a week before it hit. Many other vessels in the vicinity left. I told the Captain, Balwinder Singh, that we must also leave for the harbour. But he told me that winds were not expected to be over 40 kmph and the cyclone would cross Mumbai in one or two hours. But in reality the wind speed was more than 100 kmph. Five of our anchors broke,” Shaikh told the news publication whilst recovering at Tardeo’s Apollo hospital.

Captain Singh is among those still missing at sea.

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NCP Demands Accountability

Maharashtra Minister and NCP national spokesperson Nawab Malik demanded action against ONGC for failing to evacuate personnel from barge P-305. Saying that warnings were given to take precautions, Malik asks, “Why did ONGC not pay heed to all the warnings and follow safety protocols?”

He added that due to ONGC’s failure, lives of 600 workers were put in danger. Malik also said that the Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas must also be answerable.

Defence Ministry’s Updates

As per a statement released on Wednesday evening by the Defence Ministry:

  • INS Kochi, which entered harbour on 19 May, to disembark 125 survivors and mortal remains of four crew members, was immediately sailed out in the evening again to continue the search effort.
  • On completion of its operations off Gujarat coast, INS Talwar has also been diverted to conjoin the other three naval ships searching for missing crew of barge P-305, off Mumbai. INS Talwar was the ‘On Scene Coordinator’ off Gujarat coast and assisted Support Station 3 (SS3) and Drill Ship Sagar Bhushan, which are now being safely towed back to Mumbai by ONGC support vessels.
  • Food and water to the 300-odd crew members of these vessels was also provided by the naval helicopters from Mumbai, earlier in the day.

‘Deeply Saddened’: Defence Minister Rajnath Singh

Defence Minister Rajnath Singh on Thursday, 20 May, said, “I am aware of the scale of devastation caused by Cyclone Tauktae and the adverse conditions in which search and rescue operations have been conducted by Indian Navy and Coast Guard.”

He added that many precious lives have been saved by the daring actions of the Indian Navy in rescuing crew of barge P-305.

Singh expressed his heartfelt gratitude “to the men in uniform who did not deter from putting their lives in danger, saving the lives of our citizens under extreme conditions”.

Conveying condolences to the bereaved families, Singh said, “I am deeply saddened by the loss of valuable lives during Cyclone Tauktae. My prayers remain with the missing crew members’ families for whom the search and rescue efforts are ongoing.”

More Details From Wednesday

Commodore Manoj Jha, who led rescue operations off coast of Mumbai, said on Wednesday, “We've been able to save another 300 lives at sea. Two other vessels were in distress, they were about to abandon ship and we assured them support,” ANI quoted.

  • INS Kochi returned to Mumbai with survivors.
  • INS Kochi returned to Mumbai with survivors.

Over 618 People Rescued

In another development, 196 people on board a Barge Support Station-3 and 101 on an Oil drilling rig, which had gone drifting near the Pipavav Port, are now safe.

Offshore Supply Vessels hired by the Oil & Natural Gas Commission and Shipping Corporation of India are towing them to a safe location, even as INS Talwar reached the area where the two vessels had drifted late on Monday, 17 May.

Manoj Gite, 19, one of those on board P-305 said, “It was a horrific situation on the barge. I had not thought I would survive. But I swam in the water for seven to eight hours with the determination to stay alive and was rescued by the Navy,” news agency PTI reported.

As per the ONGC, the two barges and an oil rig – barring Barge Papaa-305 which has sunk – are in control and their crew are safe, with the IN and ONGC engaged in the rescue operations for the crew of Papaa-305.

With these, a total of 618 people, plus two from a life-raft, have been rescued in different challenging operations in the Arabian Sea, braving extreme weather conditions, massive waves upto 8 metres tall, strong winds reaching over 150 kmph.

(With inputs from ANI and PTI)

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