In response to SOS calls by two separate barges in the afternoon on 17th of May, the Indian navy had deployed two of its warships INS Kolkata and INS Kochi to undertake search and rescue (SAR) operations for a total of 410 people stranded on the boats near Heera oil fields of the Bombay high area.
INS Talwar is also being prepared to assist INS Kochi in the operation. Both warships reached the scene by mid-noon on 17 May 2021and have started the SAR operations amid harsh weather conditions and rough seas.
Visuals from INS Kolkata picking up two survivors 17 May evening
This comes amidst rough weather owing to the extremely severe cyclonic storm Tauktae on the Arabian sea as it inches closer to the Gujarat coast. Cyclone Tauktae is expected to make landfall by tonight with a heavy downpour and winds gusting up to 180 km per hour between Porbandar and Mahuva in the Bhavnagar district.
The rough seas led the barges 'P305' and 'GAL Constructor' with 273 and 137 people onboard respectively going adrift off the Heera oil fields of Bombay high area near the Mumbai coast and now has them stranded in the waters. Both the vessels sent out SOS messages to the Indian navy this afternoon.
Indian Navy warship INS Kochi were dispatched to execute the search and rescue operation for 273 people stranded on board of barge 'P305'. INS Talwar is also being prepared to assist INS Kochi in this operation.
On the other hand, the Indian Navy warship INS Kolkata has been deployed to carry out a similar operation for 137 people on board the barge 'GAL Constructor' which went adrift eight nautical miles off the Heera oil fields owing to harsh weathers in the Arabian sea due to cyclone Tauktae.
Cyclone Tauktae has already wreaked havoc along with various districts of states on the west coast of India like Kerala, Karnataka, Goa, Maharashtra and is very likely to cause greater damage on the Gujarat coast due to which the rescue operations are seeing active participation from defense forces.
Earlier in the day, an Indian naval helicopter was deployed to rescue four crew members on board of Indian flagged tug 'Coromandel Supporter XI' near the shore of Mangalore in Karnataka. The operation was carried out successfully and all crew members were rescued safely by transferring them to the coast guard vessel nearby.
The Indian air force is also extensively contributing to the preparation being made along the western coast to brace the impact of the cyclone Tauktae by transporting national disaster management forces (NDRF) and cargo from various cities like Kolkata, Vijayawada, and Pune to Ahmedabad through its aircraft like C-130J and AN-32.
Indian Navy teams from southern naval command have been deployed in the Chellanam coast region of Kerala to carry out rescue operations to shift people from low-lying areas to relief centers like St. Mary high school after the region experienced heavy downpour and severe flooding. The personnel deployed three naval diving teams and one quick response team.
Cyclone Tauktae has already killed 6 people in Karnataka and caused widespread damages in villages of the Konkan region of Maharashtra and Goa along with those in Karnataka and Kerala. The Mumbai airport has also been shut down since 11 am amid heavy rainfall.
The impact state of Gujarat is claiming to have made preparations on a war footing with more than 1.5 lakh people evacuated from the coast in Saurashtra and southern regions and 44 NDRF teams being deployed along the coast. Indian navy warships Tarkash and Tabar are deployed on standby for emergency rescue missions. The state is set to brace major cycling after more than 23 years.
All efforts along with active help from defense forces are being taken as the country braces for a cyclone while the pandemic rages. And it's certainly important for the rescue mission of the Indian navy to save 410 people in the Arabian sea to go successful to keep the devastating impact of cyclone Tauktae to a minimum.
In the latest update, search and rescue (SAR) operations by the Indian navy extended through the night and are still underway. INS Kolkata and INS Kochi were joined by two offshore support vessels (OSV) Greatship Ahilya and Ocean Energy in their efforts to rescue more than 177 personnel on board of barge 'P305' which has been declared sunk, out of a total of 273.
The operation was carried out under extremely harsh weather conditions. 96 personnel remain missing but Indian navy helicopters like P8I and others have initiated an aerial search since 18 May 2021 morning and more are likely to join as weather conditions improve.
INS Talwar which was originally to assist INS Kochi has now been deployed to rescue 101 personnel on oil rig Sagar Bhushan and another accommodation barge SS-3 with other 196 people onboard. The oil rig went adrift after it got unanchored from southeast of Pipavav port.
All 137 people on board of barge 'Gal Constructor' have been rescued by coast guard ship Samrat and a naval chopper along with two chetak choppers by coast guard which were sent in from base at Daman to airlift the crew. The barge had run aground near North Colaba point and to recover it an emergency towing vessel 'Water Lilly' has been dispatched.