Firm that ran cyclone-hit barges says people on board had life jackets, rafts
Afcons Infrastructure said on Wednesday that 26 bodies recovered by the Indian Navy during its search operations in the Arabian Sea were crew members of the barge Papaa 305 (P305) that sank off the coast of Mumbai on Monday evening.
Three barges of Afcons, a contractor working on Oil and Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC) fields off the west coast with more than 600 people on board, were stranded in offshore areas during the cyclonic storm.
ONGC said “all possible measures in coordination with ODAG (Offshore Defence Advisory Group) and MRCC (Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre)” were being taken to ensure the safety of personnel and vessels in the aftermath of Cyclone Tauktae.
The barge P305 was anchored near a rig in Heera Oil Fields, roughly 72km west of Mumbai in the Arabian Sea. On May 16, at around 10.15pm, all its 12 anchors broke away, causing it to set adrift. On the afternoon of May 17, water began to enter the barge, forcing many of its 261 occupants to jump off deck. By 7pm, the barge sank.
Afcons said P305 “had a full complement of safety equipment including life jackets and life rafts for all persons on board”.
“We are anguished and deeply distraught by the loss of lives and share in the grief of the bereaving friends and family members,” Afcons said in a statement on Wednesday. “We know nothing can ever compensate for the loss of a loved one, but we will extend our fullest support including financial assistance to the bereaved families in this hour of their need,” it said.
Afcons and consortium partner Halani-TES-Nauvata chartered the barge to work on a project for ONGC in the Western Offshore fields in the Arabian sea. The barge, owned and operated by M/s Durmast Enterprises Limited, had 261 personnel onboard when it sent out a distress call on Monday morning. The people on board comprised marine crew, labourers on contract, and employees of Afcons. Till Wednesday night, 186 of them were rescued, while 49 were still missing.
“Our immediate focus is to locate and rescue the remaining missing personnel as quickly as possible,” it added.
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