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Thursday, June 17, 2021

P-305 barge sinks: Survivors, families of dead men want answers, accountability

The accident on the high sea has brought to the fore the extremely dangerous conditions in which workers hired by contractors for ONGC Mumbai High off shore operations are forced to work.

Written by Jayprakash S Naidu | Mumbai |
May 20, 2021 2:15:59 am
Rescued crew members of barge P305 at the Mumbai Naval Dockyard.

Families of the men who died as well as survivors of the P-305 barge that sank during Cyclone Tauktae have raised questions over why the barges were not returned to the harbour in spite of warnings issued by agencies like the Coast Guard about the intensity of the cyclone.

“They are saying it’s a natural calamity. But when other barges were tugged away, why was their barge left out? Everyone knew there was a cyclone coming, so what preventive measures were taken by their employer and other government authorities? We want a detailed investigation by the police to find out if anyone’s negligence led to the incident,” said Pawan Kulkarni, the cousin of Vishal Katdare (35) – one of the 26 whose bodies have been recovered. Katdare was a quality control engineer on the barge. A resident of Ambernath, he had got married in March and boarded the barge in April. He is survived by his wife, parents and siblings. After his body was recovered, it was taken to J J hospital, where it was handed over to his family.

The accident on the high sea has brought to the fore the extremely dangerous conditions in which workers hired by contractors for ONGC Mumbai High off shore operations are forced to work.

“A large number of people have died and someone has to be held accountable. The owner should be asked if swimming is a prerequisite for hiring people on a ship. My brother did not know how to swim. Did the company give him training?” Kulkarni asked.

The Navy found Katdare alive and in a semi-conscious state but he died after being rescued. Deepak TK (32), a planning engineer, was rescued along with Katdare.

“We spoke with Deepak, who was called to identify my brother. Deepak said the captain was sure that the cyclone will pass and not harm them. Later, the captain jumped into the sea. Along with my brother, another 12 people jumped into the sea around 5 pm. All of them got separated, except my brother and Deepak,” said Kulkarni.

“They were floating in the sea for over 12 hours and were pulled up by the Navy at 4.30 am the next day. My brother was resting on Deepak’s shoulder. Deepak said he fell unconscious and on waking up, learnt that my brother had passed away,” he added.

Among those who survived, some claimed that their employers did not take the cyclone warning seriously. “Our employers took nature lightly. They thought the cyclone would not do anything. Another barge was tugged away but not ours. The ship sank around Sunday evening and we were forced to jump into the sea to save our lives,” said Faraz Nadkar (22) from Ratnagiri, who worked on the barge.

Ram Sureman (40) from Uttar Pradesh said, “Somewhere around 2 am, I and 10 others were pulled up using a rope. I was floating for 10 hours using a life jacket. I had lost all hope of surviving but then saw the Navy ship. They saved our lives.”

Another survivor, Parves Khan, added, “I am alive because of the Navy.”

The Yellow Gate police, meanwhile, said on Wednesday said that it has registered four accidental death reports (ADR) in the matter so far. Senior Inspector Suhas Hemade said, “The Navy has brought out more bodies and we are trying to identify them. Accordingly, more ADRs will be lodged.”

The police said they have recorded the statements of 50 crew members who were rescued from the sea.

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