Barge toll climbs to 70, divers continue search for missing persons

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Mumbai, May 23 (IANS) The Indian Navy recovered four more bodies from the Arabian Sea as divers from a specialised vessel continued to search for the remaining missing persons after the tragedy that befell Barge Papaa-305 last Monday in the Bombay High Fields, officials said here on Sunday.

With this, the toll has shot up to 70 and around six are still reported missing, while 188 have been rescued safely so far.

The specialised vessel, INS Makar, which located the wreckage of the Barge Papaa-305 late on Saturday is now continuing to search for the sunken anchor-handling tugboat ‘Varaprada’.

Divers went down and completed their survey of the barge and no more bodies were found in it, said an official spokesperson.

In a related development, bodies of eight persons – suspected to be fishermen from fishing vessels that may have gone missing during the Cyclone Tauktae fury last week – washed ashore in Raigad in the past 24 hours and further investigations are underway.

The Indian Navy deployed INS Makar and INS Tarasa to the BHF, around 175 km off Mumbai, to make an underwater search for the wrecks of the two vessels which sank and trace more bodies using expert divers and special equipment.

INS Makar is a lead ship of the Makar-class of catamarans used for hydrographic surveys by the navy, producing navigational charts and is capable of collecting marine environmental information by conducting limited oceanographic surveys.

INS Tarasa is a patrol vessel of the Car Nicobar-class in the series of four Water Jet Fast Attack Craft.

Besides, a P81 long-range multi-mission maritime patrol aircraft conducted reconnaissance missions over the designated areas along with ALH, Seaking, and Chetak helicopters, besides the ships like INS Kolkata, INS Kochi, INS Betwa, and INS Beas still in the vicinity to trace more bodies.

“The ongoing search and rescue operations by the ships, helicopters and aircraft will continue in the area to locate the remaining crew of the sunken vessels,” said the official.