Cyclone Tauktae: ONGC to extend immediate relief of Rs 1 lakh to survivors, Rs 2 lakh to kin of victims and missing persons

State-owned Oil and Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC) on Friday announced cash relief for families of the deceased and survivors of the private contractor-operated barge that sunk in the Arabian Sea after being battered by a severe cyclone.

ONGC said an immediate relief of Rs 1 lakh will be provided to the 186 survivors of the sunk barge and Rs 2 lakh for the dead and missing persons' families.

At least 51 persons died and 24 are still missing after barge P-305 of Afcons lost anchor and hit an unmanned installation before capsizing earlier this week.

None of those on barge P-305 was ONGC employee. They were either employee of Afcons or hired by it for executing a contract it had got from ONGC.

"Cyclone Tauktae had hit the Arabian Sea off the coast of Mumbai in the early hours of May 17, 2021, where ONGC's major production installations and drilling rigs are located. Three construction barges of Afcons, working on a project of ONGC in Western Offshore fields in the Arabian Sea, and one floater drilling rig of ONGC were severely impacted in the cyclone," the firm said in a statement.

Caught in high-velocity winds and swelling sea, all the anchors of the Barge P-305 gave away, leading it to drift uncontrollably. It "hit an unmanned platform of ONGC resulting in water ingress and eventually capsized at around 1700 Hrs of 17 May 2021," the statement added.

ONGC OSVs (Offshore Supply Vessels) were immediately pressed into service for rescue operation along with INS Kochi and INS Kolkata of Indian Navy and Coast Guard vessel.

There were 261 persons on board P-305.

"ONGC along with Indian Navy and Coast Guard immediately swung into rescue operations. Indian Navy along with the Coast Guard and ONGC are continuing with extensive search and rescue operations," it said.

"During this fight against the ferocity of nature, employees on board displayed exemplary courage and continued their efforts to steer barges and rig to safety with beaten down functionality." The firm said it is now looking at rescue and rehabilitation tasks. "Our business partner Afcons, who was operating the affected barges, has been with us in this task. We are saddened by the events and express our deep sorrow at the loss of life and pay our tributes to the BNVs (Brave, Nature's Victims)".

The combined rescue and search efforts will be continued for a few more days, ONGC said, adding it hopes to save more lives.

"In this hour of grief, Afcons are working on the compensation for the affected crew, which will be operationalised soon," it said. "ONGC has also set up a helpdesk to extend help. ONGC will facilitate the dependent family members of the rescued crew in providing logistics and expenses."

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