- Battered by a cyclone, an Afcons Infrastructure barge began to sink on 17 May. Then, four vessels in the vicinity also lost control.
- The Indian Navy received five separate SOS calls in a matter of hours, with the lives of 714 people on-board five vessels that were carrying out work for ONGC at risk.
The Indian Navy performs a daring rescue of around 600 people from sinking vessels, reports Defence Aviation Post.
SOS from construction barge
Between 9.15 and 9.30am on 17 May, as cyclone Tauktae was busy ravaging parts of the western coast, the Indian Navy’s Maritime Operations Centre in Kochi, Kerala, received an SOS that the anchor ropes of the construction barge Papaa-305 had given way.
The barge, a flat-bottomed vessel, had been hired by the Oil and Natural Gas Corp. (ONGC) Ltd. It was engaged in offshore drilling in the Arabian Sea and had dozens of personnel on board. The fraying of the ropes left the Papaa-305 adrift and in danger of sinking.
“The moment we realized that there were 261 people on-board, we immediately ordered our first ship, INS Kochi, to sail out,” said commodore Manoj Jha, a 30-year veteran of the Indian Navy.
The INS Kochi set sail at 11.15am and by the time it reached the Papaa-305, the barge had collided with an oil platform nearby and was flooded.
Biggest SAR operation
Thus, began the biggest and most dramatic offshore search and rescue operation ever carried out in the Arabian Sea in the aftermath of Tauktae—the most powerful cyclonic storm to strike India’s west coast in 23 years—which made landfall in Gujarat on 16 May.
Over the following two days, rescue personnel braved winds that gusted to 120 kilometres per hour, waves which rose to a height of 5-7 metres, and torrential rain that blurred visibility.
Jha and his team had been prepping to deal with Tauktae over the weekend of 15 and 16 May, readying their ships and air stations with all hands on deck.
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Source: Defence Aviation Post