The Mumbai Police on Friday registered a first information report against the captain of the barge that sank in the Arabian sea when Cyclone Tauktae hit India’s west coast, reported NDTV.
The accommodation barge, P305, with 273 personnel went adrift off Heera Oil Fields in the Bombay High area on May 17. Forty-nine bodies have been recovered so far and 26 personnel are still missing. The Indian Navy is continuing its rescue effort. The captain of the barge is among those missing, according to PTI.
The FIR was lodged at Mumbai’s Yellow Gate police station on the basis of a complaint by the chief engineer of the barge, reported the Hindustan Times. It was registered under sections 304(II) (an act done with knowledge that it is likely to cause death), 338 (causing grievous hurt by an act endangering life or personal safety of others) and 34 (common intention) of the Indian Penal Code.
The chief engineer of the barge, Rahman Shaikh, had said that everyone on the boat could have been saved if the captain had taken weather warnings seriously. “We received the cyclone warning a week before it hit,” Rahman Shaikh, the chief engineer, said. “Many other vessels in the vicinity left.”
Shaikh said that he told the captain that they must also leave for the harbour. “But he [the captain] told me that winds were not expected to be over 40 kmph [kilometres per hour] and the cyclone would cross Mumbai in one or two hours,” the chief engineer said. “But in reality the wind speed was more than 100 kmph. Five of our anchors broke. They couldn’t withstand the cyclone.”
Shaikh also said that several of the life rafts that they were going to use were punctured. “There was miscalculation on the Captain’s behalf and also the company [ONGC],” he said. Sheikh, who had sustained injuries, is being treated at Mumbai’s Apollo Hospital.
Three barges and three ships had gone adrift under the impact of the cyclone on Monday. All the others apart from P-305 are safe.
Meanwhile, the ONGC management said on Friday that it will extend an immediate relief of Rs 1 lakh to the survivors and Rs 2 lakh each to the families of the victims and those who are still missing.
On Wednesday, the Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas set up a high-level committee to inquire into the sequence of events leading to the stranding of the ONGC vessels in the cyclone.