Tribune News Service
New Delhi, May 18
In a day of fast-fluctuating fortunes, some 662 persons were rescued in five separate operations in the Arabian Sea, even as a search is on for 90 more men, who were on board a barge that sank near the Bombay High off-shore oil-rigs in the early hours of Tuesday.
Those saved were on 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. Ships or barges of this size, when adrift at sea, pose a threat to other ships, shore-based installations besides the oil-rigs, sources said.
A barge ‘P035’ sank near the oil-rigs, some 70 km west of Mumbai. A total of 183 men, of the 273 on board the ‘P305’, had been rescued by 7.30 pm on Tuesday. Indian Naval Ships Beas, Betwa and Teg joined INS Kochi and Kolkata for massive search and rescue operations under extreme sea conditions. Maritime reconnaissance plane the P8I and helicopters were pressed into service to scan the area using sensors.
The Navy shared bit of good news on Tuesday evening, saying a barge, ‘Support Station-3’, with 196 on board, is now successfully anchored at sea after being dangerously adrift for more than 24 hours. A tow line being connected and towing operations to bring it to harbour could commence tonight. Five tugs were used to render assistance to the barge.
Another Drilling ship, ‘Sagar Bhushan’, with 101 persons on board, is being towed to harbour. All crew is safe. Offshore vessels Samudra Sevak and Cheel are manoeuvring ‘Sagar Bhushan. “The situation at present appears to be stable,” the Navy said.
Also the ‘MTDeshbhakt’ and ‘Great ship Aditi’ engaged in critical ‘single point mooring’ operations at the oil-rigs had been adrift. Propulsion has been restore
d on both and total 45 crew on board both vessels are safe, the Coast Guard said.
Earlier in the day, 137 persons on board a barge 'Gal Constructor' got lucky as the vessel which was adrift in the Arabian Sea ran aground near Wadrai beach – some 90 km north of Colaba Naval base Mumbai, late last night, allowing for their rescue. Indian Coast Guard and the Navy pressed in helicopters to lift the survivors to shore.
At 5 pm, the Ministry of Defence spokesperson Bharat Bhushan Babu announced: “All 137 crew rescued from ‘Gal Constructor’. No individual left. Rescue ops over for this vessel.”
Meanwhile, the Oil and Natural Gas Commission (ONGC) issued a statement in the wee hours on Tuesday saying wind speed rose to nearly150-180 km/hour with 6 to 8 metre high waves when the barges and the drill ships were hit.
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