Barge P305: Casualties of Cyclone Tauktae

The accommodation barge sank in Heera Oil Fields off the coast of Mumbai as Cyclone Tauktae barreled its way northwards along the Konkan coast.
Published on May 26, 2021 12:58 AM IST
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ByManish K Pathak

Four more bodies of deceased crew members of P305, an accommodation barge that sank off the coast of Mumbai on May 17, were identified on May 25 a day after the Indian Navy called off its Search and Rescue (SAR) operations after a week.

The accommodation barge sank in Heera Oil Fields off the coast of Mumbai as Cyclone Tauktae barreled its way northwards along the Konkan coast. By the time the boat sank, most of the 261 people on board had jumped into the swirling Arabian Sea with their life jackets, hoping that help was on its way. The barge became unmoored on May 16, after all 12 of its anchors broke away and by the following afternoon, water had begun to fill into the vessel.

The SAR operations have rescued 186 people from P305 till now, and 71 bodies have been recovered, of which 52 people have been identified. The identification process for the remaining 19 is ongoing. The police is collecting DNA samples of relatives to ascertain the identity of the unidentified bodies.

A tugboat, Varaprada, which was also missing along with 11 of its 13 crew members (two were rescued last week), was recovered from the seabed 20 nautical miles off the coast of Mumbai on May 24. Three of the eight bodies discovered in Daman and Valsad’s shores were of the crew members of the tugboat.

P305 – owned by Durmast Enterprises Limited, and chartered by a consortium led by Afcons Industries to carry out a project contract for the Oil and Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC) –received a warning of an impending storm, but chose to drop anchor close to the oil rig while other barges and vessels made their way to safety onshore.

Both ONGC and Afcons have announced compensation for crew members. ONGC released a statement on Tuesday stating that it has handed over immediate relief amount to 56 survivors of Barge Papaa-305 and Varaprada in Mumbai. ONGC teams are on their way to hand over 22 more. “A nodal officer has been assigned from ONGC to each family of deceased, who is responsible for facilitating their logistics, boarding, lodging, counselling, completing formalities and transportation of mortal remains to respective home station and any local support,” the state-owned company said. Last week, Afcons also released a statement which said that it would provide compensation to the families of the deceased that would be a combination of “ex-gratia pay-outs and insurance compensation and would range from 35 lakh to 75 lakh per family.”

Ajay Singh (39), rigger

In October 2020, Singh left his family in Ajagara village of Azamgarh district in Uttar Pradesh, to work on the accommodation barge, P305. The earnings weren’t much – according to his brother, Sanjay, he earned 700 a day for a 12-hour duty. Riggers work at shipyards or other work units lifting, moving and positioning heavy equipment, machines and oversized loads. Singh was the only breadwinner of his family, which comprised his wife, a son who studies in class 10, and a daughter, a student of class 7. Initially, on account of the strict lockdown, none of his close family members could come to identify his body. They requested a distant relative, JP Singh, who resides in Koperkhairane, to visit the JJ Hospital mortuary where the P305 deceased were being brought in. However, the relative could not identify Ajay, as he had last seen him nearly 20 years ago at his wedding. Eventually, brother Sanjay, a 35-year-old farmer managed to come to Mumbai and identified his brother’s body. Afcons Industries flew his brother’s body back to the state, Sanjay said. The last rites were completed in Benares.

Arjun Pandey, 29, welder

A resident of Gopalganj in Bihar, Arjun Pandey worked as gas cutter and welder on barge P305 starting January this year. The soon-to-be-father was the sole bread winner of his family and sent most of his earnings -- 1,300 daily for 12 hours of work – back home. Pandey came to Mumbai on January 10, and stayed at his brother-in-law’s house in Navi Mumbai for a few days, before he joined work in last week of January. As the cyclonic storm barreled its way up north the coastline, Pandey called his pregnant wife on May 17 at around 7 am. He spoke to her for a short while and told her about the vessel which sent out an SOS signal to the Indian Navy after the storm intensified to an extremely severe cyclonic storm earlier that morning. That was the last she heard from him. A relative identified his body on May 20 after he scoured the list of survivors put out by the Navy, but couldn’t find Pandey’s name on it.

Nilesh Pitale, 44, fire safety officer

A Pune resident, Pitale worked as fire safety officer on the barge P305. Some survivors whom HT spoke to remembered Pitale with gratitude. The 44-year-old helped several crew members survive, by distributing biscuits and water after water entered their vessel and destroyed the food available in the kitchen. The barge, which got unmoored after all 12 of its anchors broke off, began to fill up with water around 2 pm on May 17. By 7pm it had sunk completely. Younger brother Vishwanath, who also lives in Pune and works in a courier company, identified Pitale’s body at JJ Hospital and took the body for cremation on May 21. Pitale leaves behind a wife, two elderly parents, a 17-year-old son and an 11-year-old daughter. He was the only earning member in his family.

Upendra Singh, 39, rigger

Upendra Singh, a rigger on P305, belonged to a small village in Devaria district of Uttar Pradesh. His younger brother Satyendra (35) also worked as a rigger on another vessel, Trinity Nissi, which was also chartered by the consortium led by Afcons Infrastructure and was stationed at Heera Oil Fields. Singh had just joined work in October. On May 14, when the cyclone warning went out, Trinity left for the Mumbai shore but P305 moved 200 metres from the rig and dropped anchor. Satyendra identified his brother’s body at JJ hospital on May 20 and performed last rites back in their village two days later. The company helped fly the body back, and took care of the expenses, Satyendra said. Singh is survived by his wife, elderly parents and three children – two daughters, aged 12 and three, and a son aged five.

Krishna Kumar Prajapati, 28, welder

Krishna Kumar Prajapati, 28, was the only child of his parents who are farmers in Prayagraj in Uttar Pradesh. Prajapati, worked as welder, earning 600 a day for 12 hours. On many days, he worked a few hours overtime to earn 150 to 200 more every day. He wanted to save enough money to send home as the pandemic had affected his family’s finances badly. Prajapati had other family members working with him on the barge. One named Anil had finished his contract on February 28. It was he who identified Prajapati’s body at the mortuary. Another cousin, 22-year-old Anup Prajapati, worked as helper on the same barge, but he returned to land 10 days previously after receiving a message that his parents had fallen ill. On May 16, as the storm began to gather intensity leading to the barge getting unmoored, Prajapati sent a message to Anup: “Cyclone ki wajah se barge full out hai” [The barge has gone out to the sea because of the cyclone].

Pappuram Meghwal, 32, pipe fitter

Pappuram Meghwal working as a pipe fitter with his older brother Amararam (40) and younger cousin Mahendra Runawat on the barge. Married with two children, Pappuram jumped into the water with his two brothers before the barge sank on May 17. However, he couldn’t survive the choppy sea even as the naval ships involved in rescuing. His body was identified by his father last week and taken back to the village in ambulance from Mumbai. His last rites were performed on May 22.

Yogendra Yadav, 45, rigger

Yogendra Yadav, a resident of Kushinagar district, Uttar Pradesh was a rigger aboard P305 – a profession that he has been in for the past 12 years. He earned around 26,000 per month, most of which he sent back to his family which comprised of a wife and five children including three daughters and two sons ranging from 22 to 7 years.He was the sole breadwinner of his family and his death has hit them hard. His nephews Gulshan Yadav (20) and Pankaj (25), residents of Nalasopara identified the body. Gulshan said that Yadav’s wife is “in shock”. “My aunt is still in shock and clueless about how would she raise all the children alone. She is under tremendous trauma as the incident happened at a time when there was already so much pandemic related panic around.” Yadav’s body was cremated in his home town last week.

Kulwinder Singh, 44, rigger

Kulwinder Singh, a resident of Gurdaspur, Punjab had been working on the barge as a rigger, which involved physical work. For it, he earned between 20,000 to 22,000 a month, most of which he sent to his farmer family back home. A relative Jagpreet Singh, also from Gurdaspur, was also on the barge, and jumped into the choppy waters. He survived, and identified Singh’s body. Jagpreet was angry that the barge continued to stay on in the sea despite the cyclone warning, especially as other barges made their way back to safety. “The people responsible for the tragedy should not be spared and must face strict action,” he said. Singh is survived by his wife, two sons aged 8 and 12 years and a 5-year-old daughter. After the tragedy his family is in shock. The government should give a job to the family. Only monetary compensation won’t be of much help as he was the only earning member in the poor family,” Jagpreet said.

Sachindra Prasad Singh, 59, barge surveyor.

Sachindra Prasad Singh hailed from Darbhanga in Bihar, and worked as a barge surveyor. On May 17, Singh jumped into the choppy waters but could not be rescued. His son, Rudra Kumar, 26, came down to the city to identify the body and said that his family is inconsolable. “My family is in deep shock. We are busy in performing the rituals. My family is not in position to express the loss. It would not be easy for us to come out of this. I lost my father. It’s irreparable. The police must seriously investigate the matter and punish those responsible for it.”

Vishal Katdare, 35, quality control engineer

Vishal Katdare, a resident of Ambernath in Thane district, had only just got married in March, when he got this job offer. It was a tough decision to make but Katdare decided to take it, and joined the barge in April. “The family has not heard anything on the progress of the investigation of the case. We want a detailed investigation by police to find out if any one’s negligence led to the incident. The family members are in trauma and are not in condition to speak to anyone. They are shattered,” said Pawan Kulkarni, the cousin of Katdare, who identified the body.

Amararam Meghwal, 39

A native of a remote village in Pali district of Rajasthan, Amararam was working on the barge P305 as a pipe fitter. On May 17, when the barge was going under water, he jumped into the sea, holding the hand of his younger brother, Pappuram, and a cousin, 19-year-old Mahendra Runawat. Amararam and Pappuram succumbed after spending four to five hours in the very choppy sea, but their younger cousin managed to survive. Amararam’s body was identified by another cousin brother, Kishor, on May 24. The family has received two cheques of 5 lakh from Afcons, the family said. “I don’t know the exact salary, but Amararam and Pappuram used to earn Rs. 35000 to 40000 per month including overtime salary,” he said, adding that the loss of income will hit the family hard. The body was transported to Rajasthan by ambulance on May 24, while his brother’s body was transported and handed to the family over the weekend. The last rites of both brothers have been completed. Amararam is survived by a wife, two children.


Shivkumar Mishra 52, missing

Mishra, who hailed from Kushinagar district in Uttar Pradesh, had been working as a supervisor on the barge since October 2020. His earnings, which amounted to 1 lakh a month, helped his large family back home, which included a 17-year-old son and a 19-year-old daughter. The last call he made to them was around 8:30am on May 17: the storm had already intensified and the barge had sent out an SOS signal as the weather worsened. Mishra told his family members about the situation. He also told his wife that there was network issue due to the cyclone but she should not worry, he would call her once the weather became normal. That was the last call that the 52-year-old made to his family. Santosh Mishra, a relative residing in Mira Road, visited JJ Hospital every day this past week and waited for hours till late in the evening in the hope that the Navy would bring Mishra’s body to the state-run hospital. Now, Mishra’s older brother who was supposed to come to Mumbai to enable a DNA test, tested positive for Covid and couldn’t travel. A relative from the village will carry some of his hair and nails to Mumbai, Santosh said. “Some of the bodies arrived here are not in a condition to be identified and we now have to do DNA test,” he said.

Santosh Yadav, 32

Santosh Yadav, who hailed from Jaunpur in Uttar Pradesh, had worked as electrician on P305 since November 2020. The 32-year-old had married early and had three children: two sons and a daughter, all aged between six and 11 years. Yadav earned more than 1000 per day for 12 hours of work, most of which went back to his family, a relative said. For the past three days, Yadav’s family members including his aged father, Mathura Prasad, have been pacing the JJ Hospital compound as they wait anxiously for news from the Navy’s search and rescue operations. On Monday, the search operations were called off. Mathura Prasad, a farmer, said that the process of identification through DNA is going on.

Ranalakhi Kumar, 28

Ranalakhi Kumar had worked as a technician on P305 since November 2020. On May 17, as the barge began to sink, he jumped into the rough sea despite the stormy weather along with several others. His cousin Rana Singh worked as a technician on Trinity Nissi, another barge that was working at Heera Oil Fields and returned to shore after receiving the cyclone warning. While P305 had 261 on board, Trinity Nissi had 250 people on board and it was anchored near the Mumbai harbour. On May 19, many workers on board fought with the Master to return to land. They had heard what happened to P305, and some like Rana, had family members on that barge. Rana is still waiting for news of his cousin whose body has still not been identified. Kumar, a resident of Chhapara district in Bihar has two children, a 4-year old daughter and one-and-half-year-old son.

Barge Papaa305

Total crew - 261

Rescued - 186

Identified - 50

1) Mohan Varsi Krishna, 33

2) Azahar Yunus Gaddi, 25

3) Sachindra Prasad Anand Singh, 59

4) Navinkumar Pramod Singh, 29

5) Arjun Pandey, 33

6) Prabhat Virendra Singh, 45

7) Pramod Rajdev Pathak, 45

8) Rajpal Jay Yadav, 50

9) Arjun Munnapi Thangapan, 38

10) Sasus Ismile, 25

11) Anthony Edwin, 26

12) Jomish Joseph, 35

13) Sumesh V. S., 30

14) Anant Carpenter, 36

15) Yogesh Girgosavi, 33

16) Girish Bhausaheb Wagh, 37

17) Nilesh Pitale, 44

18) Amarraj Barnbas, 43

19) Dina Haridayanand Singh, 34

20) Golakh Chandra Sahoo, 52

21) Mata Prasad Mangala Singh, 29

22) Mahanish Kulkarni, 34

23) Pappuram Udaram Meghwal, 32

24) Vishal Vasant Kathadare, 35

25) Kulwinder Ajit Singh, 45

26) Mandeep Jaywant Singh, 32

27) Manpreet Balwant Singh, 26

28) Manjeet Singh, 42

29) Ajay Shivprasad Singh, 39

30) Sandeep Singh Santosh Singh, 25

31) Upendra Radheshyam Singh, 42

32) Vijaveer Dharmaraj Singh, 33

33) Sushil Kumar Shiv Singh Pal, 23

34) Sandeep Kumar Yadav, 33

35) Yogendra Sarada Yadav, 43,

36) Ajaysingh Rajendra Singh Rana, 23

37) Rohit Jaypal, 22

38) Suresh Krushna, 45

39) Omprakash Mishra, 40

40) Radheshyam Thakur, 27

41) Anant Kumar Chaurasiya, 36

42) Sanish Joseph, 21

43) Akash Ramsingh, 28

44) Krishnakumar Prajapati, 29

45) Aditya Kumar Bind, 37

46) Pralhad Forward Singh (age not known)

47) Vivek Das (age not known)

48) Dipakar Mukundbihari Vishwas (age not known)


Tugboat Varaprada

Total crew members -13


Francis Simon, 51

Sahab Sapan Bhutiya, 23


Saddam Hussain Ejaz Ahmed - 29

Nagendra Kumar Prajapati, 59

Ummed Singh, 61


Pankaj Kumar Chandra Bhushan Sharma, 46

Umit singh kushwa, 61

Vicky Bhuplal, 29

Vijay Kumar Baburam, 27

Suraj Shantilal Chauhan, 22

Rakesh Kumar Thakur, 29

Ankush Surendra Kashyap, 28

Bapaditha Bablu Mahta, 27

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