According to a petroleum and natural gas ministry official, five vessels carrying 714 personnel were caught in the cyclone, of which 628 people were rescued and 49 bodies were recovered
Search operations are still on to locate 37 crew members who were onboard state-run Oil and Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC) vessels Papaa–305 construction barge and Varaprada, when they were hit by cyclone Tauktae.
According to a petroleum and natural gas ministry official, five vessels carrying 714 personnel were caught in the cyclone, of which 628 people were rescued and 49 bodies were recovered. These vessels were Sagar Bhushan drill ship, construction barges—Support Station-3, Gal Constructor and P-305—with Varaprada handling the anchor of Gal Constructor.
The anchors of most of the vessels gave way, with the towing line of Support Station-3 barge snapping away. While 49 bodies of personnel from Papaa–305 construction barge have been recovered, search is ongoing for its remaining 26 crew and for 11 crew of Varaprada. The P-305 barge sank on Monday, 35 miles off Mumbai.
After several ONGC vessels got stranded at sea, the ministry set up a high-level enquiry committee to ascertain the causes and lapses that led to loss of lives.
“Based on the weather warning, ONGC activated its emergency response system and issued instructions to all installations to take action as per the standard operating procedure. Complying the same, appropriate actions including staying at the safe mode or returning to the safe locations to the anchoring points were taken by the respective installations. Out of 7675 personnel, 6961 stayed safe at respective locations," the official said.
According to the official while all 202 personnel on Support Station-3 vessel, 101 personnel on Sagar Bhushan drill ship, 137 personnel on Gal Constructor were brought on shore safely; only 186 personnel out of a total of 261 personnel on Papaa–305 could be rescued as of now. Also, only two of 13 personnel on Varaprada vessel could be saved.
Indian Navy and Coast Guard are conducting search and rescue operations off Mumbai and Gujarat coast, with ships and aircraft trying to find out the missing crew members. Also, Support Station-3 barge and Sagar Bhushan drill ship are being towed back to Mumbai.
“Due to the severe cyclonic storm, unfortunate incidences have occurred involving three construction barges of M/s Afcons working on a project of ONGC in Western Offshore fields in the Arabian Sea and one drilling rig of ONGC deployed for exploration purpose," ONGC said in an 18 May statement.
Apart from making its recommendations to prevent such disasters, the committee has been tasked with finding out the sequence of events leading to the stranding and drifting of these vessels. Also, it will ascertain whether the warnings issued by Meteorological Department and other statutory authorities were followed. It will also find out whether the standard operating procedures for securing vessels and disaster management were followed and point out the lapses and gaps in the systems that led to the disaster that could have been prevented.
A total number of 7,675 people on 342 installations comprising of 99 floating and 342 fixed ones were impacted by the cyclone that tore across western India. Of these 99 floating vessels and rigs 94 remained safe at sea and shore. The cyclone caused extensive loss of life and property is western India.
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