Waves crash onto the road as Cyclone Tauktae batters Mumbai, India. Picture: REUTERS/TWITTER/@ompsyram
Waves crash onto the road as Cyclone Tauktae batters Mumbai, India. Picture: REUTERS/TWITTER/@ompsyram

Delhi — A cyclone barrelling through India’s west coast sank a barge hired by state-run explorer Oil & Natural Gas, prompting a huge operation to rescue 91 people missing from the vessel.

Long-range maritime surveillance aircraft were assisting the rescue effort but bad weather was hampering operations, Indian navy spokesperson Vivek Madhwal said, adding that about 146 people, who were on the barge, were rescued in a nightlong operation.

Another warship of the Indian navy sailed out on Tuesday morning to rescue 296 people from two other Oil & Natural Gas-operated barges, which are adrift in high seas, Madhwal said.

Indian navy ships and vessels of Indian Coast Guard and Oil & Natural Gas have joined the rescue operations, the company said in a statement. The cyclone was equivalent of a category 3 hurricane, with waves as high as eight metres. Oil & Natural Gas has production installations and drilling rigs in the area.

Cyclone Tauktae, which slammed India’s western Gujarat state Monday night, will gradually weaken in the next three hours, according to the India meteorological department. Heavy rain is likely to continue in parts of the western state of Gujarat, with wind speeds reaching as high as 135km/h, it said.

The cyclone struck at a time when the country is battling a coronavirus pandemic. Hospitals and crematoriums in India are getting overwhelmed amid the world’s fastest-surging outbreak.

Mumbai, the capital of Maharashtra state that escaped the worst of the storm, cancelled coronavirus vaccinations at public centres on Monday and moved patients from makeshift hospitals to accommodate the surge in infections to government-run hospitals. The city’s international airport was shut for most of the day.

Ports in Gujarat remained closed on Tuesday because of the turbulent sea conditions and high wind speed, according to a state government official handling port operations. A decision on resumption will be taken depending on the situation in the afternoon.

Bloomberg News. More stories like this are available on bloomberg.com

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