Tug boat deployed for helping barge P-305 was 16 nautical miles away: chief engineer

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Mumbai, May 21 (PTI) The tug boat Nove, which was supposed to help barge P-305 in distress, was some16 nautical miles away and therefore not in the position to come to its rescue when Cyclone Tauktae struck, the chief engineer of the barge has said in his statement to the police here, an official said on Friday.

Yellow Gate Police in south Mumbai have registered an FIR against captain Rakesh Ballav and others on a complaint filed by chief engineer Mustafizur Rahman Hussain Shaikh after the barge, used as accommodation vessel for maintenance personnel working for ONGC's offshore platforms, sank on Monday off the Mumbai coast, killing at least 60 persons.

Shaikh, in his statement, claimed that when cyclone neared the area on its way to Gujarat, the captain contacted his employer, and later instructed that the barge was not to move away as the storm would not last long.

To compound this lapse of judgment, the tug boat which could have helped the barge was not close by, he said.

'In case of emergency, the tug boat Nove was kept around five nautical miles from the barge. But when our situation worsened and a message was sent to the Nove seeking help, we found that it was 16 nautical miles away,' Shaikh told police.

Due to heavy winds in the early hours of May 17, two of the eight anchors of the barge snapped around 2 am, he said. The captain should have sent distress alerts to seek help from other ships which was not done, Shaikh claimed.

Around 4 am, three more anchors snapped and by 8 in the morning, all eight anchors had come off, he said in the statement.

The barge hit an unmanned platform of ONGC around 9.45 am, following which water started entering into the winch compartment and it started sinking, he said.

Around 5.00 pm, crew members started jumping into the water and he was among them, Shaikh said. They had only life jackets to rely on. They spent the whole night in the water before being rescued the next morning, Shaikh said.

The police have registered a case under IPC section 304 (2) (culpable homicide not amounting to murder) and further probe is on, the official said. PTI DC KRK KRK

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