Barge was out of control for three days before cyclone struck: crew

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Mumbai, May 18 (PTI) The ill-fated barge `P-305' deployed near the Bombay High was 'out of control' for three days before cyclone Tauktae caused it to sink in the Arabian sea, a rescued crew member said here on Tuesday.

The Indian Navy has so far rescued 180 of 261 crew members, a senior official said. The vessel sank on Monday evening as the cyclone barrelled towards Gujarat.

The barge was deployed at the Heera platform, the largest of the ONGC rigs on the Bombay High, the largest oil and gas assets of the national energy major.

Avinash Aadke, a rescued crew member, said the barge was 'out of control' for three days and help had been sought from the Coast Guard.

But as the barge, anchored near Alibag, south of Mumbai, was relatively close to the shore and there was mobile phone connectivity, the help was redirected to other vessels, he said.

'As our barge got damaged, they (the Navy) set everything aside and came to our rescue on a war footing,' he said, speaking at a naval facility in Mumbai after reaching the shore.

'The situation on the barge was critical, so we contacted our family members and told them that we were safe and there was no need to worry,' he said.

Ankit Nalawade, who hails from Western Maharashtra's Satara district, said nobody tried to jump into the water till the barge was afloat.

Vice Admiral Murlidhar Sadashiv Pawar said the barge with 261 people onboard sank at 7 pm on Monday in a very choppy sea.

The subsequent search and rescue was one of the most challenging operations undertaken by the Navy in four decades, he said.

'The main challenge is the weather itself. This is an extremely severe cyclonic storm with winds of 80-90 knots, wave heights of 6-8 metres, continuous rains, heavy clouding and almost zero visibility,' Admiral Pawar said.

Sagar, another rescued worker, said they started seeking help using the radio network after the barge de- anchored on Monday. PTI DC AA KRK KRK

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