India searches for oil workers hit by devastating cyclone after rescuing 184 from sunken barge

Search teams from the Indian Navy have rescued 184 people after a barge carrying 261 oil workers sank as Cyclone Tauktae hit India’s largest oilfield and left a trail of destruction across the country’s western states.

On Wednesday, 184 rescued oil workers were returned to shore on board the INS ‘Kochi’ and the INS ‘Kolkata’ after their barge, located near the Bombay High oil rigs, was battered by Cyclone Tauktae, causing it to sink. 

The ‘Kochi’ could be seen returning to Mumbai on Wednesday morning, when the weather was still particularly adverse. The ‘Kolkata’ was expected to enter port shortly after the ‘Kochi’. 

The barge sank early on Tuesday as Cyclone Tauktae drove waves of up to 25 feet on the high seas. Local media claim there were six vessels, all connected with the oil industry, that had been separated from their moorings.  

Captain Sachin Sequeira, commanding officer of INS ‘Kochi’, told local media that rescue operations were still ongoing and that the search area had been widened. He added that conditions at sea were calmer than they were two days ago and that there were six ships and aircraft involved in the operation. 

The storm did not make landfall in the state of Maharashtra, in which Mumbai is located, but caused significant damage across the western states before leaving a trail of devastation across Gujarat. So far, at least 29 people have been confirmed dead. 

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The cyclone made landfall in Gujarat on Monday evening, bringing with it torrential rains and winds of up to 130 miles per hour. Authorities in the state said the storm damaged 16,000 homes, took out power pylons, and blocked over 600 roads. The state was already one of the hardest hit by the resurgent Covid-19 pandemic, with hospitals short on beds and oxygen. 

Prime Minister Narendra Modi is due to visit his home state of Gujarat later on Wednesday and conduct an aerial assessment of the damage caused.

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