The navy said it rescued 186 personnel so far on board sunken barge P305, which was working for India’s Oil and Natural Gas Corporation and efforts are continuing to locate missing crew members.
The 22 bodies were brought to Mumbai, capital of Maharashtra state, along with 125 of the 186 rescued, a navy spokesperson told the news agency Press Trust of India (PTI).
The Indian navy and coast guard have been engaged in search and rescue missions since Monday when barge P305 and other vessels went adrift after Cyclone Tauktae pummelled India’s west coast.
Three barges and an oil rig – including barge P305 with 273 personnel, barge Gal Constructor with 137 personnel, barge SS-3 with 196 crew members and the Sagar Bhushan oil rig with 101 on board – went adrift on Monday, an official confirmed to PTI.
The Indian coast guard said all people on board barge Gal Constructor were rescued by Tuesday evening. Meanwhile, all personnel on barge SS-3 and 101 crew members on board Sagar Bhushan have also been brought to safety.
A crew member of the sunken barge told news agency ANI that he jumped into the sea when the vessel was sinking. He was rescued by the navy 11 hours after being in the water.
Deputy chief of naval staff vice-admiral Murlidhar Sadashiv Pawar told PTI that the ongoing search and rescue operation is among the most challenging in the last four decades.
Cyclone Tauktae made landfall in the state of Gujarat on Monday, destroying infrastructure and toppling power lines and trees. It also left a trail of destruction in the states of Kerala, Maharashtra, Karnataka and Goa.
The cyclone has weakened into a depression over the south of Rajasthan state and adjoining Gujarat region, a statement by the Indian Meteorological Department said on Wednesday.
Prime minister Narendra Modi conducted an aerial survey of Gujarat on Wednesday to assess the situation in the wake of the cyclone.