Battling extreme weather, the Indian Navy has so far rescued 177 people on board a barge that went adrift in the Arabian Sea near Mumbai hours before Cyclone Tauktae made landfall on the Gujarat coast, an official said on Tuesday.
Navy ships were deployed on Monday after receipt of a request for assistance for barge ''P305'' adrift off Heera oil fields in Bombay high area with 273 personnel on board. The oil fields are around 70 km southwest of Mumbai.
Sixty persons on board the barge were rescued till 11 pm and the remaining overnight, the official said, adding a Navy helicopter brought three rescuees to INS Shikra this morning.
INS Shikra, formerly known as INS Kunjali, is a naval air station located at Colaba in south Mumbai.
State-run Oil and Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC) had on Monday said barge P305 with 261 personnel deployed for offshore drilling got de-anchored and began drifting because of the cyclonic storm Tauktae.
P305 being an accommodation barge had no engine to power it, and it hit an oil rig in the vicinity and there was ingress of water, sources said.
A barge is a long flat-bottomed boat either under its power or towed by another. An accommodation barge is of shallow draft (vessel whose keel is not far below the waterline) and is used to accommodate personnel on projects where shore accommodation is not available.
Offshore accommodation barges are fully autonomous and used mainly in the oil and gas industries.
The Navy on Tuesday morning also deployed the P-8I long-range, multimission maritime patrol aircraft to join the search and rescue operations, the official said.
Another barge, the ''Gal Constructor'' with 137 persons onboard has run aground about 48 nautical miles north of Colaba Point, he said. An Emergency Towing Vessel ''Water Lily'', two support vessels and CGS Samrat are in the vicinity for rendering assistance and evacuation of crew, he added.
"INS Talwar has proceeded to assist another oil rig Sagar Bhushan with 101 personnel on board and an accommodation barge SS-3 with 196 personnel on board, both of which are adrift and presently located about 50 NM South East of Pipavav Port," the spokesperson said in a statement.
(With the inputs of PTI).