A dramatic video showed the Navy's searchlights zooming in on survivors in the sea as operations to rescue the crew of a barge that sank off the Mumbai coast during Cyclone Tauktae entered its third day.
In a statement on Wednesday, the Navy said its ships and aircraft participating in the search and rescue operations have so far saved 186 people, including two from a tugboat, Varapradha.
INS Kochi, which entered the harbour on Wednesday to drop off 125 survivors and the bodies of four crew members, immediately sailed out again in the evening to continue the search operations, the Navy said.
INS Kolkata was scheduled to bring those rescued from the barge and the tugboat, and the bodies of 18 more crew members.
After completing operations off the Gujarat coast, INS Talwar joined three other ships searching for the missing crew of the barge off Mumbai coast.
INS Talwar was the "on-scene coordinator" and helped "support station 3" and drilling ship Sagar Bhushan, which are now being safely towed back to Mumbai by ONGC support vessels, the Navy said. Food and water for some 300 crew members of these vessels were provided by naval helicopters from Mumbai on Wednesday.
The Navy ships involved in the operations are INS Kochi, INS Kolkata, INS Beas, INS Betwa, INS Teg, P8I maritime surveillance aircraft, Chetak, and Seaking helicopters.
Workmen rescued from the barge narrated their horrifying experience of trying to survive. Some said they had almost lost hope of making it alive. "It was a horrific situation on the barge. I had not thought I would survive. But I swam for seven to eight hours with the determination to stay alive and was rescued by the Navy," workman Manoj Gite told reporters in Mumbai, PTI reported.
Gite, 19, a resident of Kolhapur, said when the barge started sinking, all workmen got worried and he along with others wore a life jacket and jumped into the water. Another workman, who was injured in the incident, thanked the Navy for saving his life.
"It is because of the Navy that we all are alive and safe today, otherwise we don't know what would have happened to us," the workman said, fighting back tears.