India Rescues Hundreds After Cyclone Sinks a Barge and Sets Vessels Adrift
A helicopter flies over the P305 barge during the on-going rescue operation. (Photo: ANI/Twitter)

India Rescues Hundreds After Cyclone Sinks a Barge and Sets Vessels Adrift

A cyclone barreling through India’s west coast sank a barge hired by state-run explorer Oil & Natural Gas Corp. prompting a massive operation to rescue 96 people missing from the vessel.

“Long-range maritime surveillance aircraft were assisting the rescue effort but bad weather was hampering operations,” Indian Navy Spokesman Vivek Madhwal said, adding that about 177 people, who were on the barge, were rescued in a night-long operation.

Another warship of the Indian Navy sailed out on Tuesday to rescue hundreds of people from two other ONGC-operated barges, which were adrift in high seas, Madhwal said.

India Rescues Hundreds After Cyclone Sinks a Barge and Sets Vessels Adrift

Indian Navy ships and vessels of Indian Coast Guard and ONGC have joined the rescue operations, the company said in a statement. The cyclone was equivalent of a category 3 hurricane, with waves as high as eight meters. ONGC has major production installations and drilling rigs in the area.

Cyclone Tauktae, which slammed India’s western Gujarat state Monday night, will gradually weaken in the next three hours, according to the India Meteorological Department. Heavy rain is likely to continue in parts of the western state of Gujarat, with wind speeds reaching as high as 125 kilometers (78 miles) per hour, it said.

The intensity of the cyclone is similar to the one that hit Gujarat in 1998, according to Mrutyunjay Mohapatra, director general of the national weather forecaster.

Cyclone Tauktae struck at a time when the country is battling a coronavirus pandemic. Hospitals and crematoriums in India are getting overwhelmed amid the world’s fastest-surging outbreak.

India Rescues Hundreds After Cyclone Sinks a Barge and Sets Vessels Adrift

Mumbai, the capital of Maharashtra state that escaped the worst of the storm, canceled coronavirus vaccinations at public centers on Monday and moved more than 600 patients from the so-called jumbo facilities -- makeshift hospitals to accommodate the surge in infections -- to government-run hospitals. The city’s international airport was shut for most of the day.

Ports in Gujarat remained closed on Tuesday because of the turbulent sea conditions and high wind speed, according to a state government official handling port operations. A decision on resumption will be taken depending on the situation in the afternoon.

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