Killer storm still wreaking havoc | india | Hindustan Times
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Killer storm still wreaking havoc

india Updated: Jun 26, 2007 02:36 IST
Gigil Varghese

A raging sea, egged on by cyclonic winds, devastated 13 sea vessels and killed at least seven people along the country's south-western coast in the last 72 hours.

But for Indian Coast Guard rescue teams, 68 more would have died. One person is still missing. In two cargo carriers from Panama and India, 49 crewmembers are still stranded off Porbunder because they refuse to be rescued for reasons not known.

This is the same cyclonic depression from the Bay of Bengal that killed 10 people in Mumbai over the weekend and submerged its low-lying areas.

Thirteen vessels — three tugs (towing vessels), three barges, five fishing boats and two cargo carriers — either drifted away, got beached or simply sunk.

"The last few days have been very hectic. Winds were blowing at 45 nautical miles per hour so we could not use our helicopters. But we managed to save lives," said Inspector General of the Coast Guard, western region, A Rajashekhar.

The wild winds, after having caused ruin along the coast in Trivandrum, moved to Calicut, Mangalore, Goa and Maharashtra, and are now blowing ships off the Gujarat coast. In one such mishap, nine fishermen were stranded for three days on an uninhabited island of the Goa coast.

"Our Chetak helicopters and rescue ships are on high alert," said Commandant Kalpit Dikshit, chief staff officer (operation), Mumbai Coast Guard.

Two unmanned barges, for instance, are drifting away from Alibaug coast — an hour's sail from Mumbai — towards Gujarat. The cook and the captain died in the storm on Saturday, and one of the tugs dragging the barges sank. The rest of the crew were rescued. The barges, meanwhile, are bobbing along, brimming with iron ore. If they capsize, it would ironically be good.

"Iron deposits in the sea often helps the growth of corals," said environmentalist Mohan Menon of Reefwatch.