Specialised teams onboard INS Makar, searching for crew members of Barge P305 which sank off the Mumbai coast in Cyclone Taukate, completed the diving search operation on sunken wreck of the barge on Sunday. The death toll rose to 70 as four more bodies were recovered. A total of 188 survivors, including two rescued from tugboat Varaprada, have been recovered so far. The Navy will continue the search for 16 more believed missing from the barge and tugboat.
There were a total of 261 personnel on the barge and 13 persons on Varaprada. The list of those missing may get a lot shorter if it is confirmed that the 14 bodies recovered along the Maharashtra and Gujarat coasts in the last few days are those of the barge and tugboat personnel. While eight bodies were recovered on Raigad coast in Maharashtra, six were found on Valsad coast in Gujarat.
After searching the barge, INS Makar proceeded to locate the wreck of tugboat Varaprada. The teams will conduct diving operations on Monday to locate 11 more people who were on the tugboat. Search and rescue operations (SAR) by ships and helicopters/aircraft will also continue in the area to locate the remaining crew of the sunken vessels.
Barge P305, which housed personnel engaged in maintenance work of an offshore oil drilling platform of state-run oil and gas major ONGC, sank on May 17 off the Mumbai coast after it went adrift due to the high-speed winds and huge tidal waves caused by the extremely severe cyclone which brushed the Mumbai coast on its way to Gujarat.
The barge was located on the seabed following a systematic search by INS Makar, which employed advanced side scan sonar. The Navy also deployed specialised diving teams to boost the search and rescue operations.
Struggling to establish the identity of almost half the victims of the P305 barge tragedy, police initiated the process of conducting the DNA testing of the bodies, an official said on Saturday. The Navy had handed over the bodies recovered to the city police.