The Indian Navy on Sunday said that it had accounted for all 274 crew members who went missing after a barge, P305, and a tugboat, Varaprada, capsized off the Mumbai coast on May 17 when Cyclone Tauktae hit. The Navy, however, added that a final confirmation was pending till identification of a total of 16 bodies – eight from Raigad district of Maharashtra and another eight from Valsad in Gujarat were recovered on Sunday – was complete.
There were a total of 261 personnel on the barge and 13 on Varaprada.
Meanwhile, the official toll from the mishap reached 70 on Sunday after rescue teams of the Indian Navy and Indian Coast Guard found four more bodies of P305 crew members, the Hindustan Times reported. With 16 bodies washing ashore on Sunday, the toll could rise to 86 after the identification process is complete, a Navy official told PTI.
The bodies that were recovered from Valsad, included those of 62-year-old Nagendra Kumar, captain of Varaprada, and Umeed Singh, its second engineer, The Indian Express reported. They were identified by Francis K Simon, chief engineer of Varaprada, one of only two of the boat’s survivors. The tugboat sank with 11 of its 13 crew members.
Meanwhile, the wreck of barge P305 was located on the sea bed on Saturday. “Barge P305 was located on the seabed after systematic search by INS Makar employing advance side scan sonar,” a Navy officer told the Hindustan Times.
INS Makar, a Navy survey catamaran, located the wreck of tugboat Varaprada on Monday, seven days after it went adrift in the sea.
As Cyclone Tauktae hit the Mumbai coast, barge P305 got de-anchored on the night of May 16, and hit a platform while drifting in the rough sea, later sinking around 7 pm on May 17. The tugboat Varaprada also capsized the same day.