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14 Dead, 97 Missing, Navy Rescue Ops On For Vessels That Ran Adrift


Ninety-seven offshore ONGC (Oil and Natural Gas Corporation) workers are still missing after three barges – carrying a total of 599 people – were left stranded off Mumbai Monday as Cyclone Tauktae swept past India’s western coast.

The Navy has recovered 14 bodies as part of an ongoing SAR – search and rescue operation.

“We can confirm 14 bodies have been recovered from the rescue operation of barge P305 that sank off the coast of Mumbai,” Mehul Karnik, the chief Public Relations Officer for the Western Naval Command told news agency Reuters.

A video tweeted by the Defence PRO (Mumbai) Wednesday afternoon showed INS Kochi sailing into the city’s harbour this morning with the bodies, and rescued persons from one of the barges, on board. INS Kolkata also returned to Mumbai harbour today, carrying others who were rescued, PTI reported.

“Naval ships Teg, Betwa and Beas, as well as P8I aircraft and Sea King helicopters are continuing with search & rescue ops,” the PRO Defence account tweeted.

All three barges were deployed by engineering firm Afcons for its contract with ONGC.

261 people were on board barge Papaa-305 – which sank 35 nautical miles off Mumbai – and 201 were on board barge Support Station-3 – which was drifting northwest in the Mumbai High oilfield.

137 people were on board Gal Constructor, which ran aground during the storm. Thankfully, the Coast Guard on Tuesday said all of them had been safely rescued.

Efforts are also ongoing to rescue the 101 people on board ONGC’s oil drilling ship Sagar Bhushan, which lost its anchors in the storm and began to drift north.

Another rescue effort involves Greatship Aditi – an offshore supply/tug that is struggling 15-20 nautical miles southeast off Gujarat’s Pipavav. INS Talwar is in the area, officials have said.

The Navy has led a dramatic, round-the-clock SAR (search and rescue operation) that has saved the lives of 185 people so far, and is continuing to look for more survivors. The efforts, aided by the Coast Guard and ONGC, have been led by Western Naval Command’s Commander of Operations.

Commodore MK Jha on Tuesday revealed some details of the challenging operation, telling NDTV: “The eye of the storm was right west of Mumbai…we did not bother… ships immediately sailed.”

The forces zeroed-in on the initial reported positions, but poor weather made visibility “literally negligible at times – at the most around half-a-kilometre to 1 kilometre”.

Tauktae – the most powerful storm in the Arabian Sea region in decades – laid waste to parts of the western coast as it moved from Kerala to Gujarat, where it made landfall 8.30 pm Monday.

At least three people were killed in Gujarat, six in Maharashtra and eight in Karnataka. Tens of thousands of houses and electricity poles were damaged, as were acres of crops.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi is in Gujarat today to review the damage and offer assistance.

With input from PTI, Reuters

syndicated from NDTV

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