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Navy recovers 6 more bodies of barge’s crew, 20 missing

Mumbai: The Indian Navy on Saturday recovered six more bodies of crew members of the ill-fated barge Papaa305 (P305) that capsized in the Arabian sea hours after Cyclone Tauktae hit the Mumbai coast last Sunday, taking the overall toll in the tragedy to 66
By Manish K Pathak and Vijay Kumar Yadav
PUBLISHED ON MAY 23, 2021 12:39 AM IST

Mumbai: The Indian Navy on Saturday recovered six more bodies of crew members of the ill-fated barge Papaa305 (P305) that capsized in the Arabian sea hours after Cyclone Tauktae hit the Mumbai coast last Sunday, taking the overall toll in the tragedy to 66.

Search is still on for 20 missing personnel -- nine crew members of P305 and 11 who were on board tugboat Varaprada, which also sank during the cyclone. The Navy dispatched two specialised diving teams from Mumbai on Saturday morning to augment the search.

“The teams on board INS Makar, which is also equipped with a side-scan sonar, and INS Tarasa sailed out early morning,” said commander Mehul Karnik, chief public relations officer of the Western Naval Command.

He added that the actual work of the diving teams will, however, start only after the exact locations of the sunken barge and tugboat are ascertained and preparatory work completed.

The barge was located at the seabed after systematic search by INS Makar late on Saturday.

Barge P305 was deployed at an unmanned platform in Heera oil fields, one of the largest ONGC rigs in the Arabian sea. As Cyclone Tauktae hit the Mumbai coast, the barge got de-anchored on Sunday night, and hit a platform while drifting in the rough sea. It sank around 7pm on Monday in a very choppy sea amid rough weather, which made search and rescue one of the most challenging operations undertaken by the Navy in four decades.

Afcons Infrastructure, which leads the consortium that chartered the barge and hired its crew, said there were 261 members on board. The barge sank about 40 nautical miles west off Mumbai. The Navy and the Coastguard have so far rescued 186 barge crew members and recovered 66 bodies.

Search efforts for remaining crews of P305 and Tug Varaprada continue.

On Monday afternoon, INS Kolkata rescued two crew members of the tugboat, Varaprada. Meanwhile, police said nine unidentified bodies were found along the coast in Raigad (4), Daman (1) and Valsad (4) over the past two days.

“We are co-ordinating with the local authorities in Raigad, Daman and Valsad to check if those bodies are of any crew members of the cyclone-hit barges or boats,” said Suhas Hemade, senior inspector, Yellow Gate police station.

Mumbai Police spokesperson, deputy commissioner of police Chaitanya Siriprolu said police have so far received 61 bodies of P305 crew and 31 of those have been identified and 28 handed over to their respective families.

The DCP added that police are also securing DNA samples of the unidentified bodies for ascertaining their identity in future.

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