Cyclone Tauktae: ONGC's barge P305 capsizes in Bombay High; 59 rescued, Navy continues search operation for 214 people

Mumbai: Barge ‘P 305”, an accommodation barge of the state-run Oil and Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC), capsized off Heera oil fields in Bombay High on Monday night after the impact of Cyclone Tauktae broke its mooring and set it adrift. Indian Navy along with a private vessel ‘Energy Star’ rescued 59 of the 273 people on board the barge.

Rescue operations continued late into the night with two Indian Navy vessels INS Kochi and INS Kolkata undertaking the search and rescue operation. A navy officer requesting anonymity said, “The barge capsized. Navy along with a private vessel ‘Energy Star’ saved 59 people from the barge. Search and rescue operations are on.”

Indian Navy will press all its assets including the P-8i’s tomorrow morning to support the ongoing rescue operation. At around 1 pm on Monday, P 305 had sent an SOS call to which the Navy responded and send INS Kochi. But the sea state, which was between 7 and 8, did not enable the navy to undertake the rescue operation, said a Navy spokesperson.

P305 being an accommodation barge had no engine to power it, and it hit one of the oil rigs in the vicinity and there was ingress of water, added Navy sources.

“Normally, the rescue operation would have entailed launching lifeboats which would have transferred people onboard the barges. But with the current sea state and with barge tossing and turning, it was not possible to launch lifeboats to rescue people from ‘P305’,” said a Navy officer, requesting anonymity. “It’s going to be a long night,” added the officer.

In the second incident, Indian Navy received another SOS call from Barge ‘GAL Constructor’ with 137 people on board about 8 nautical miles from Mumbai following which INS Kolkata was sent for search and rescue. But the condition of Barge ‘GAL Constructor’ was also similar with it drifting towards the shore initially but started moving northwards, added Navy sources.

The joint operations command in Mumbai then diverted INS Kolkata to assist search and rescue operation for P 305, while a vessel of Indian coast guard ICG Samrat was deployed for Barge ‘Gal Constructor’. Navy sources said that barge ‘Gal Constructor’ was in a better shape and would be towed to shore.

Earlier in the day, a naval helicopter rescued four crew members of an Indian flagged tug ‘Coromandel Supporter XI' that was adrift north-west of Mangalore in Karnataka. The vessel’s machinery compartments were flooded which cut off its power supply and was without propulsion.

The rescued crew members were transferred to a nearby Coast Guard Vessel. “Several other ships have been readied for Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief (HADR) tasking in the wake of Cyclone Tauktae that has wreaked havoc along the West coast of India," a Navy spokesperson said.

The Indian Coast Guards also swung into action and rescued 15 crew members of a fishing boat named Milad off Goa coast. All the crew has been confirmed to be safe and the boat is being towed ashore to safety.

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