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Death Toll in Indian Floatel Barge Capsizing Reaches 66

p305
Survivors from barge P305 rescued by INS Kochi (Indian Navy)

Published May 23, 2021 10:53 PM by The Maritime Executive

The Indian Navy is still searching for nine missing crewmembers of the accommodations barge P305, which went down during Cyclone Tauktae last week with 261 people aboard. 

186 crewmembers were rescued after the sinking, and the remains of 66 individuals have been recovered. The victims are not all recognizable, Mumbai police sources told LiveMint, and DNA samples from their family members have been used to aid identification. So far, about 40 bodies have been returned to their loved ones. 

Thanks to a sidescan sonar search conducted by the Indian Navy's INS Makar, the wreck of the P305 has been located on the seabed. A dive team will be conducting a search of the vessel to find additional victims. 

Following pointed criticism of the vessel's operator from the Indian Coast Guard, the Mumbai Police will be investigating the reasons why the P305 remained in harm's way with hundreds of people on board. The ICG warned oil and gas operators in the Mumbai High region about the threat of the storm on May 11 and again on May 13, and a detailed warning about the intensifying cyclone was available on the morning of May 16 - well before the sinking. 

Rahman Shaikh, the P305's chief engineer, told the Indian Express that the barge's master was aware of the cyclone well before its arrival. However, the captain believed that the storm's intensity would be far lower - just 25 mph, not the 110 mph-plus wind speeds recorded on the day of the casualty.

Meanwhile, in the Bay of Bengal, the Indian Navy and Indian Coast Guard are now bracing for the impact of Cyclone Yaas. The storm is expected to form near the center of the Bay on Monday, and it will likely travel north, making landfall in Odisha or West Bengal as a "very severe" cyclonic storm. More than a dozen cutters have been sent out to sea to warn fishermen and merchant ships to the approaching danger, according to the ICG.