SAWT BEIRUT INTERNATIONAL

| 23 June 2021, Wednesday |

Indian navy searches for 77 missing from barge sunk by cyclone

On Wednesday, Indian navy ships and aircraft searched the waters off the coast of Mumbai for 77 staff who went missing from a barge that sunk after a strong cyclone hit the country’s west coast this week.

Cyclone Tauktae slammed into the western states of Maharashtra and Gujarat over the past two days, killing at least 29 people and leaving a trail of devastation, according to authorities.

The storm smashed into the Bombay High oilfield near Mumbai, where India’s biggest offshore oil rigs are located, and sank the barge that had 261 personnel on board.

The navy said 184 people had been rescued from the barge “P305”, which was engaged in contract work awarded by Oil and Natural Gas Corp, India’s top exploration company.

Three ships and aircraft are continuing to look for the remaining personnel, it added.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi is scheduled to conduct an aerial survey later in the day of the storm-hit areas in his home state Gujarat, where the cyclone made landfall on Monday packing gusts of up to 210 kph (130 mph), the state government said.

The storm has piled pressure on Indian authorities as they grapple with a massive rise in coronavirus infections and deaths as well as a shortage of beds and oxygen in hospitals.

In Gujarat, among the hardest hit states by the second wave of the virus, the cyclone has ripped out power pylons, damaged some 16,500 homes and blocked over 600 roads, authorities said.

The state’s farm sector is also likely to have taken a hit, including the major mango growing belt of Saurashtra.

Officials said work to restore electricity supply and clear roads was ongoing, but some parts were still cut off.

“Mobile phone networks are still down in many areas, and I don’t think they will be restored by today,” Aayush Oak, the top official in Gujarat’s Amreli district, told Reuters.