In a massive operation, the Coast Guard and Navy rescued 180 men from a barge servicing ONGC offshore operations on the Mumbai coast that went adrift in high-speed winds and rain arising from Cyclone Tautkae on Monday.
Sixty persons on board the barge were rescued till 11 pm and the remaining overnight, the official said, adding a Navy helicopter brought three rescuees to INS Shikra this morning
Navy ships were deployed on Monday after receipt of a request for assistance for barge ‘P305’ adrift off Heera oil fields in Bombay high area with 261 personnel on board. The oil fields are around 70 km southwest of Mumbai.
Four Coast Guard vessels, two Navy ships and one merchant vessel are deployed to rescue the four barges, which serve as living quarters for men working on several offshore rigs of the oil PSU. The four vessels began sending distress signals after getting caught in Cyclone Tauktae to the Coast Guard, shipping ministry control room and their own control room.
Coast Guard operations DIG T Ashish said there were an estimated 800 people on board in the four vessels, but there was no exact count.
The 60 men rescued were on board barge P 305, which had a total of 261 personnel and crew. The vessel went adrift after hitting an unmanned rig.
Coast Guard Inspector General (west) Anand Badola told The Indian Express, “P 305 was 57 nautical miles south-west off Prongs Light House (located on the southern tip of Mumbai) and hit an unmanned rig due to inclement weather. There was propulsion failure and water started entering the barge. She is an accommodation barge and used by ONGC and other personnel. When we received a distress call, we alerted some merchant ships to help her, but they could not. Neither the Coast Guard nor Navy could launch helicopters due to inclement weather.”
The Navy on Tuesday morning also deployed the P-8I long-range, multimission maritime patrol aircraft to join the search and rescue operations, the official said.
Badola said that Coast Guard vessel Sankalp had been sent for help, while Navy spokesperson Commander Mehul Karnik said that Western Naval Command sent INS Kochi and INS Kolkata for rescue operations at P 305.
INS Kolkata separately rescued two other men who were adrift on a life raft.
A naval officer said the sea was extremely rough, making it impossible to steer the rescue vessels alongside and the only way to bring people off the barge was by using life rafts. A statement from the Navy said the rescue operations of all four vessels were being carried out in “extremely challenging sea conditions” and will continue through the night.
Director-General of Shipping Amitabh Kumar said they had got messages and enlisted the Coast Guard’s help.
A second barge called Gal Constructor with 137 persons located 44 nautical miles from Tarapur is also in distress. The emergency towing vessel Water Lily of the Directorate General of Shipping was dispatched for rescue, and is said to have reached the vessel, which has engine trouble. By Tuesday morning, Coast Guard ship Samrat will also reach to help in the rescue operations.
Another barge called Support Station 3 was drifting 58 nautical miles west of Prongs Light House. The fourth vessel, Modusagar Bhushan, with 202 men on board, was drifting 53 nautical miles north west of Prongs Light house. She had lost steam, said Badola.
Four Coast Guard ships Shoor, Sankalp, Samrat and Samarth were sent on the search and rescue mission.
ONGC spokesperson Harish Awal declined to speak about the rescue operations.