The navy said it has so far rescued 177 of the total 273 personnel on board barge P305 which sank on Monday as Cyclone Tauktae passed the coast of Mumbai, the capital of Maharashtra state. The first batch of rescued people was brought to Mumbai on Tuesday and sent for medical attention.
The navy said that search and rescue operations would continue through the night for the remaining crew.
In another rescue operation, the Indian navy responded to an SOS call received from a barge adrift with 137 people onboard. The navy said that 55 crew members from that vessel have been rescued so far.
Both the barges were working for India’s Oil and Natural Gas Corporation, which said it was doing all it could to assist in the rescue operations.
An oil rig with 101 personnel on board and an accommodation barge with 196 personnel on board were also calling for rescue “located southeast of India’s Pipavav Port,” a navy spokesperson was quoted as saying by the Press Trust of India news agency.
Tauktae, the most powerful cyclone to hit this part of the Indian Ocean in more than two decades, made landfall in the western state of Gujarat on Monday. Before Gujarat, it left a trail of destruction in the states of Kerala, Maharashtra, Karnataka and Goa.
The cyclone weakened on Tuesday from “extremely severe” to a “very severe” storm after making landfall, the Indian Meteorological Department said.
The cyclone has killed at least 19 people, according to Reuters, and caused substantial damage to infrastructure. Heavy rains are predicted to continue to lash some parts of the country on Tuesday.
The storm has hit at a time when a second wave of Covid-19 has overwhelmed India. Authorities have said that clearing roads was a priority to ensure oxygen supply to hospitals is not disrupted in the cyclone’s aftermath.
About 150,000 people were evacuated from low-lying areas in Maharashtra and Gujarat states ahead of the cyclone, according to the Associated Press. SN Pradhan, director of India’s National Disaster Response Force, said that social distancing norms were being followed at evacuation centres.