The bodies of all the missing crew members of Barge Papaa (P-305) and tugboat Varaprada have been recovered, taking the death toll in the tragedy to 86. Since all the bodies have been recovered, the massive rescue operations launched by the Navy and the Coast Guard are likely to be halted soon.
Navy officials said, a total of 274 crew members of P-305 and tugboat Varaprada (261 from P-305 and 13 from the tugboat) went missing after the two boats sank in the Arabian Sea after being hit by Cyclone Tauktae last week. The Navy and Coast Guard rescued 188 survivors, including two from Varaprada and recovered the mortal remains of 70 crew. Eight bodies each were recovered along the coast at Raigad district and the Gujarat coast near Valsad on Saturday. “Thus, all 274 crew members reported missing have been accounted for. Final confirmation will however be pending till the identification of all the bodies recovered is completed,” said the chief Naval spokesperson, Commander Mehul Karnik.
Meanwhile, Navy divers on Sunday completed underwater operations on the sunken Barge Papaa (P-305) on Sunday and confirmed that there were no bodies of missing crew members left in the wreckage of the barge. The Navy ships on Sunday recovered the bodies of four more crew members of the two ships.
At first light on Sunday, the Navy divers entered the Arabian Sea where the wreckage of the barge had been located earlier on Saturday by the Navy ship INS Makar, employing advanced side scan sonar. “As no bodies were found from the wreckage of P-305, INS Makar is proceeding to locate the wreck of Tug Varaprada and diving operations will be conducted on Monday,” said Karnik.
Varaprada, along with its 11 crew members sank on May 18 around 10 nautical miles of the Satpati port. Two of its crew members had already been rescued by Navy earlier.
The Mumbai police has so far received 70 bodies, including the eight washed ashore from the Alibaug coast in Raigad district on Saturday. They were brought to J J Hospital for identification on Sunday. Of the 70 bodies, so far 45 have been identifed and handed over to family members.
A team from the Yellow Gate police station had reached Valsad, Gujarat, on Sunday, to identify and bring back the seven bodies washed ashore there, of whom three have been identified. Another body which washed ashore at Daman on Saturday had also been identifed as that of missing P-305 crew member Saddam Hussain, said police.
To identify the remaining 25, bodies, blood samples are being collected for DNA matching with those of relatives for identification, police said.