Cyclone Tauktae: 317 people saved from barges, 390 stranded
In a massive air and sea mission, the Indian Navy and Coast Guard have so far rescued 317 people on board barges that went adrift in the Arabian Sea near Mumbai hours before cyclone Tauktae made landfall on the Gujarat coast, but 390 more remain were stranded or missing from offshore facilities, an official said on Tuesday.
Tauktae, the most powerful storm to hit the region in more than two decades, packed sustained winds of up to 210km per hour when it came ashore in Gujarat.
Three barges and an oil rig with 707 personnel on board went adrift on Monday. These included barge P305 with 273 persons, cargo barge GAL Constructor with 137 personnel on board, accommodation barge SS-3 with 196 personnel on board and the Sagar Bhushan oil rig with 101 personnel on board, a Navy official said.
While all the 137 people on board the cargo barge GAL Constructor were rescued, 180 of the 273 on board P305 have been rescued so far, the official said.
Deputy chief of naval staff, vice admiral Murlidhar Sadashiv Pawar said the P305 barge sank at 7pm on Monday in a very choppy sea. The subsequent search and rescue is one of the most challenging operations in four decades, he said.
Indian Naval Ships (INS) Beas, Betwa and Teg have joined INS Kochi and INS Kolkata in the search and rescue (SAR) operations for the barge. The SAR had also been augmented with P-8I and naval helicopters, which held an aerial search, and since the commencement of the SAR from May 17, 180 have been rescued so far, said commander Mehul Karnik, chief public relations officer, Western Naval Command. Karnik, however, clarified that helicopters cannot be used for aerial search at night and the search will continue by naval ships after ascertaining the distance and direction the survivors could have drifted into the sea. P305, according to some rescued workers, got disconnected from the rig around 10.15pm on Sunday and went adrift as Tauktae struck the Konkan coast. Survivors said water started entering the accommodation barge from Monday morning and they were forced to get out of their compartments and move to the deck of the barge.
The GAL constructor barge was out of control for three days before the cyclonic storm led to its sinking, Avinash Aadke, a rescued worker said after being flown to Mumbai. Aadke also said help was being sought from the Coast Guard.
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Besides the barges, one drilling rig of ONGC, ‘Sagar Bhushan’, with 101 people on board (37 ONGC employees and 64 contractual workers), too drifted away from its location.
Barge ‘Support Station-3’ had 196 persons and is drifting North-West but is clear of all operational installations of Mumbai High - India’s biggest oilfield. Operations to bring these people to safety are on.
With PTI inputs