Cyclone: Rescued workmen from barge recall horror in sea

Of the 273 people on the ill-fated barge, 186 have been rescued so far by the Indian Navy.

Mumbai, May 19

Twenty six bodies have been found in the Arabian Sea and are of possibly of the persons who were on board the ill-fated barge ‘P305’ that sunk on the night intervening May 17 & May 18.

Two more survivors have been found on Wednesday, taking the number of those rescued from the barge to 186. Still 49 persons are missing at sea and with hopes of finding survivors now would be miracle. 

A DNA match of the dead would reveal their identity. A DNA sample is collected, as part of protocol,  of those working on oil rigs and at Sea.

The sunken barge was working at the Heera oil rig part of the Bombay High oil rigs 70 kms south-west of Mumbai. It was a part of six separate vessels which had been adrift at sea since Monday following the Cyclone Tauktae. All were connected with oil-drilling work or new projects at the Bombay high. The others are safe.

Also the number of persons on board the ill-fated barge ‘P305’ has been down revised from the 273 announced earlier to 261, the latest number. The Navy had initially said 273 were on board the barge and this was based on the first SOS message. The Oil and Natural Gas Commission clarified that the number on board the barge was 261. The Navy has confirmed the figure and now it has been revised to 261 onboard before the accident.

A massive search operation is on for the past 48 hours. The first lot of rescued men arrived at Mumbai onboard INS Kochi, the Indian Naval warship and a second lot of survivors would reach Mumbai tonight.

Warships,  planes, and helicopters continue their search for those missing at sea.  INS Teg, INS Betwa, INS Beas are at the location. Maritime reconnaissance plane the P8I, fitted with sharp sensors, is scanning the area.  Helicopters with sensors are at the location. All the copters can land on decks of the available ships at sea.

"It was a horrific situation on the barge. I had not thought I would survive. But, I swam in the waters for seven to eight hours with the determination to stay alive and was rescued by the Navy," workman Manoj Gite told reporters here.

Gite (19), a resident of Kolhapur, said as the barge started sinking, all workmen got worried and he along with others wore a life jacket and jumped into the waters.

The workman, who had joined as a helper on the barge only last month, said said he lost all his documents and mobile phone in the cyclonic storm.

Asked if he would return to the rig again, Gite said he is not keen to go back and is contented to be alive after the nightmarish experience.

Another workman, who was injured in the incident, thanked the Indian Navy for saving his life.

"It is because of the Navy that we all are alive and safe today, otherwise we don't what would have happened to us," the workman said while fighting back his tears.

One of the officials on the barge had claimed the cyclone was "not huge", another workman said.

"The official is now missing. We tried to search for him, but in vain," he said.

Another rescued workman said as their barge started sinking, he jumped into the waters in the middle of the night and tried to stay afloat.

"I swam for about 12 hours before the Navy team rescued me," he said.

Another personnel, who works as a fitter at the rig, said the sea waves were higher than the height of the barge and there were high-speed winds blowing around.

"Before the Navy ship arrived, we were not sure what was going to happen. As we saw the naval ship coming towards us for rescue, our confidence went up. I was sure they will save me, hence I jumped into the waters and started swimming," he said. 

Meanwhile, the tugs of the Oil and Natural Gas Commission (ONGC) are towing the drillship Sagar Bhushan and barge ‘Support Station 3’ to harbour. Food and drinking water has been being provided to the crew onboard these vessels by Indian Navy copters. They were both carrying 297 men onboard.

Meanwhile, all the 137 personnel on barge GAL Constructor were rescued on Tuesday by the Navy and Coast Guard. — With PTI

 

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