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P305 tragedy: INS Makar, equipped with side scan sonars, to search for the missing

INS Makar is a survey catamaran, which is used to conduct hydrographic surveys by the Navy. It is being brought down from Karwar in Karnataka to assist in the mission.

Written by Yogesh Naik | Mumbai |
May 22, 2021 1:56:47 am
A police officer verifies the family members of the deceased outside the mortuary at JJ Hospital in Mumbai. (Express Photo by Ganesh Shirsekar)

Facing difficulties in locating the remains of the 26 missing men who are untraceable after barge P305 and tugboat Varaprada sank in the Arabian Sea during Cyclone Tauktae earlier this week, the Western Navy Command has decided to deploy INS Makar, which is equipped with side scan sonars, to search for the missing persons.

INS Makar is a survey catamaran, which is used to conduct hydrographic surveys by the Navy. It is being brought down from Karwar in Karnataka to assist in the mission.

A rescue operation launched by the Navy and the Coast Guard after the sinking of barge P305 and tugboat Varaprada had helped save 188 employees working on these vessels. A total of 60 bodies have been recovered so far while 26 men, including 15 from the barge and 11 from the tugboat, are still missing.

Side scan sonar is used to create an image of large areas of the sea floor when visibility is poor. High resolution side scan sonars can obtain photo-like image of exactly what is lying on the ocean floor. Once the item that is being searched gets identified, divers can be deployed to retrieve it. The Navy will be deploying a team of divers to assist with the mission.

“On Saturday, INS Makar will sail out with six diving teams, each having five to six divers,” Commodore Manoj Jha, who is heading the operations, said. Naval officers said that while they will look for bodies trapped inside the vessel, diving teams will look for bodies in other areas.

Makar will also be joined INS Tarasa, a smaller ship with lower draft that can go in shallow waters. The Navy has so far deployed INS Teg, INS Talwar, INS Tarasa and INS Betwa in the mission. The Coast Guard has deployed ships like Subhadra Kumari Chauhan, Sankalp, Samarth, Samrat, Samudra Prahari, Sachet and Apoorva.

Helicopters of the Navy and the Coast Guard are also flying closer to the beach to look for bodies and survivors. The Navy has got two advanced light helicopters from Goa to assist the Sea King helicopters and Chetaks. Two Dornier 228 aircraft, which can fly low, are flying along the coast with observers having binoculars to search for survivors or bodies.

A Coast Guard officer said that the bodies being recovered are in a highly decomposed state and the ships have to immediately get them to coast.

Meanwhile, the Maharashtra Maritime Board (MMB) has issued a notice to the owners of Gal Constructor, which ran aground near Palghar, for removal of the ship as it is in way of the navigation channel. This notice has been issued under the Indian Ports Act, said MMB chief Amit Saini.

A similar such notice has been slapped by the marine mercantile department of DG (Shipping). The shipping minister has also issued a notice to barge owners to ensure that oil pollution from the stranded vessel is kept under control.

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