49 bodies found, 26 more missing four days after Cyclone Tauktae sank barge off Mumbai coast

Navy continues search battling extreme weather

Ajay Banerjee
Tribune News Service
New Delhi, May 20

A total of 49 bodies have been found in the Arabian Sea near the spot where the ill-fated barge ‘P305’ sunk on the night intervening May 17 and May 18 as Cyclone Tauktae ravaged past India’s western coast.

A DNA profile of the dead would reveal their identity.

After more than three days of search by the Indian Navy and Coast Guard in extreme sea conditions, 26 persons, who were on the barge are still missing at sea.

Hopes of finding any more survivors are slim. The search will continue for now as the sea is known to throw up miraculous survivors even days after accidents, sources in the Navy said.

Legally, those missing cannot be presumed dead till there is evidence to support it. Such a search at sea is normally not called off for a few weeks.

After a long search a certification has to be done, saying the missing persons are presumed dead. This certification is needed for paper-work by the families to seek compensations and insurances etc.

Of the 261 persons on the ill-fated barge, 186 have been rescued from the sea and brought back to shore in batches.

All those who have been rescued had jumped off the barge as it sank. All were wearing self-illuminating life-jackets that have a special ‘prop’ to keep a person’s head above water.

The sunken barge was working at the Heera oil rig part of the Bombay High oil rigs 70 kms south-west of Mumbai.

The government last night ordered a probe asking a high-level committee to probe the sequence of events that led to the stranding of so many barges and ships.

The committee will probe the following: Sequence of events leading to the stranding and drifting of these vessels, and subsequent events; if warnings issued by Meteorological Department and other authorities were adequately considered and acted upon; if standard operating procedures for securing theses were adequately followed and lapses and gaps in the system leading to the stranding and drifting of the vessels.

Meanwhile, three barges and three ships associated with oil-rigs went adrift on Monday.

Other than Barge ‘P305’ that sunk, all others are safe.

The boats of Oil and Natural Gas Commission (ONGC) on Thursday towed the drill ship Sagar Bhushan and barge ‘Support Station 3’ to harbour to Mumbai. All 297 men on board are safe. All the 137 personnel on barge GAL Constructor were rescued on Tuesday by the Navy and Coast Guard helicopters.

There is no sign of 11 persons who were on Tug ‘Vara prada’, they are also missing at sea. Two of the survivors were picked up mid-sea on the night of May 17. They have been brought ashore on board INS Kolkatta, last night.

 

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