93 Barge Personnel Still Missing As Coast Guard, Navy Rescue Ops Continue

Three barges deployed by engineering firm Afcons for its contract with ONGC had 599 workers on board when the cyclone hit yesterday.

Cyclone Tauktae made landfall on Monday night on the Gujarat coast, dotted with oil installations.

New Delhi/Mumbai:

At least 93 of the over 500 personnel manning the oil rig and barges in the high sea off the Mumbai coast were still missing a day after Cyclone Tauktae swept past the Maharashtra coast. The Indian Navy and Coast Guard have been involved in rescue operations round the clock, with over 180 people carried to safety through the day today, officials said.

Three barges deployed by engineering firm Afcons for its contract with ONGC had 599 workers on board when the cyclone hit, official sources told PTI.

Indian Naval Ships Beas, Betwa, and Teg joined INS Kochi and Kolkata in search and rescue (SAR) operations for Barge 'Papaa-305', which sank 35 nautical miles off Mumbai yesterday. The operations have been augmented with P8I and naval helicopters.

Over 180 survivors of the 260-odd crew on the barge have been rescued so far. Attempts are being made to trace the remaining, they said.

All 137 out personnel were rescued off the barge Gal Constructor and rescue operations were declared closed, the Coast Guard said today.

Barge Support Station-3 had 201 personnel and was drifting North-West but is clear of all operational installations of Mumbai High, India's biggest oilfield. Efforts to bring these persons to safety are on, PTI reported.

Meanwhile, rescue vessels have reached ONGC's drill-ship Sagar Bhushan, which lost its anchors and had begun to drift north, PTI reported citing sources. It had 101 people on board, of which 37 were ONGC employees and 64 were contractual workers.

Another vessel being helped is Great Ship Aditi, struggling 15-20 nautical miles southeast off Pipavav, Gujarat. The INS Talwar has arrived in the area and taken over the duties of 'On-Scene Coordinator' for coordination of the effort, officials said.

Cyclone Tauktae made landfall on Monday night on the Gujarat coast, which is dotted with oil and gas installations. While the offshore has fields producing oil and gas, the coast houses two big refineries and some of the busiest ports.

The cyclone, whose intensity is similar to the one that hit Gujarat in 1998, has weakened but heavy rains are likely to continue, with wind speeds reaching 125 kilometre per hour, the weather department has said.

The sea continues to be extremely rough, posing a challenge to the ships and aircraft involved in search and rescue, the Indian Navy said.