One of the men rescued by the navy from the Arabian sea being brought for medical attention at naval air station INS Shikra in Mumbai
MUMBAI/NEW DELHI: As search ops for missing crew members of the barge P-305 continued on Tuesday, people in the know said evacuation measures had been initiated as soon as the barge had shown signs of tilting.
Indian Navy’s chief PRO, Commander Mehul Karnik, said all the vessels seemed to have been hit hard by the high sea swell and gusty winds. P–305 saw its anchors give way, causing it to start drifting, and it later sunk.
TOI learned from some crew members who had disembarked from P-305 on May 8 that the barge had been unable to reach the shores ahead of the cyclone “due to some issue,” though some other barges and vessels had succeeded. “The crew members are from Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Punjab, Kerala and Karnataka,” sources said.
Sources said rescuers were battling ferocious winds and very high waves. People aware of the situation said the choppy sea has made transfer of people from barges to rescue ships a challenging task.
The barges and the drillship were deployed for drilling and exploration in Heera field off Bombay High and western offshore, which make up ONGC’s main production base. The vessels had gone adrift on Monday after their moorings snapped due to the ferocity of Tuktae, which pushed up wind speed to 195 km and created waves as high as 6-8 metres.
Karnik said the anchors of ‘Support Station-3’ had also given way, causing it to drift, while Gal Constructor had drifted off Colaba Point with water ingress in the engine room. ONGC’s Sagar Bhushan, deployed for exploration in the western offshore, had started drifting north.
Several personnel from P-305, rescued by Sea King helicopter, were taken to INS Shikra and given medical attention. “INS Talwar has sailed to render assistance to another oil rig Sagar Bhushan with 101 personnel onboard and an accommodation barge SS-3,” said the official.
Coast Guard PRO, Commandant R K Singh stated, “In an effective coordinated rescue operation, all 137 crew of distressed vessel Gal Constructor successfully rescued and are safely ashore. Rescue mission accomplished.” Gal Constructor was rescued off Satpati coast, and three Chetak helicopters were pressed into service.
ONGC and Afcon are updating families of those on board the vessels, officials said. ONGC on Tuesday evening tweeted, “All drifted vessels, except ‘P-305’ are taken in control and their crew are safe. @IndianNavy and #ONGC are actively engaged in rescuing crew of vessel ‘P-305’.”
Vice-admiral M S Pawar said while speaking to mediapersons, “This is one of the most challenging search and rescue operations I have seen in the last four decades.”