At least 22 personnel on board accommodation barge P305 that went adrift in Cyclone Tauktae fury before sinking in the Arabia Sea off Mumbai coast are dead and 65 still missing, a Navy official said on Wednesday.
The Navy said its personnel, battling extreme weather, have so far rescued 186 of the 273 people who were onboard barge P305 and also two from tugboat Varaprada.
"Search and rescue operations are still on and we haven't lost hopes of bringing them ashore," an official said. However, the chance of finding survivors is getting bleaker as the hours pass by, he added.
Meanwhile, Maharashtra Minister and senior Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) leader Nawab Malik has hit out at the Union Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas.
In a series of tweets, Malik said everyone was made aware of the cyclone and warnings were sent out for all to take necessary precautions. "Local government agencies had made arrangements for people on coastal areas to move to safer places and fishermen were asked not to venture into the sea," he said.
Malik asked, "Then why did the ONGC not pay heed to all the warnings and follow safety protocols?" The minister said they should have evacuated all their workers from the barges and brought them to shore before the onset of the cyclone.
"Due to their failure to do so, lives of 600 innocent workers were put in danger. 60 people are still missing and many have lost their lives due to this negligence. The Indian Navy and Coast Guard are trying their best in this rescue operation," Malik tweeted.
"Action must be taken against those who are in charge and did not take the decision of evacuation at the right time. They must be held responsible and punished. Central Ministry of Petroleum & Natural Gas must also be answerable," he further said.