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Around 22 dead, 51 missing after barge sinks off Mumbai, Rescue ops on

By Saima Siddiqui 
Updated Date

Mumbai: At least 51 ONGC workers are reportedly still missing after a barge that was carrying 261 people sank off the Mumbai coast on Monday as Cyclone Tauktae swept past. The Navy, which is leading the search and rescue operation, has recovered 22 bodies from the sunken barge.

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A video tweeted by the Defence PRO (Mumbai) on Wednesday afternoon showed INS Kochi sailing into the city’s harbour this morning with 188 rescued persons from barge P-305. INS Kolkata also returned to Mumbai harbour today, carrying others who were rescued, media reported.

“INS Kochi entering Mumbai harbour today morning along with rescued personnel from Barge P305. 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.

#INSKochi entering Mumbai harbour today morning alongwith rescued personnel from Barge P305. 

INS Teg, INS Betwa, INS Beas  P8I aircraft & Seaking Helos continuing with Search & Rescue Ops.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi – in Gujarat today to review damage caused by Tauktae – also spoke to senior officials to take stock of the operations to rescue people from the ONGC barge.

Nightmarish stories are emerging of people battling the elements to stay afloat, to stay alive, as naval ships race to their location and try and spot them amid the murky gloom of the storm.

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“It was a horrific situation on the barge. I had not thought I would survive. But I swam in the waters for seven to eight hours with the determination to stay alive and was rescued by the Navy,” Manoj Gite, 19, one of those on board P-305, told news agency today.

Barge P-305 and two others – Gal Constructor and Support Station-3 – were deployed by engineering firm Afcons for its ONGC (Oil and Natural Gas Corporation) contract.

All 137 people on board Gal Constructor, which ran aground during the storm, were rescued Tuesday, the Coast Guard said.

201 were on board Support-Station 3, which was drifting northwest in the Mumbai High oilfield.

Efforts are also ongoing to rescue 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.

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The Navy has led a dramatic, round-the-clock SAR (search and rescue operation) with its Western Naval Command’s Commander of Operations at the head.

Its efforts have been aided by the Coast Guard and ONGC.

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”.

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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.

Cyclone Tauktae, the intensity of which was similar to the storm that hit Gujarat in 1998, has weakened into a depression with light to moderate rainfall and winds of 45-55 km per hour.

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