India cyclone: More than 70 missing at sea as barge sinks off Mumbai

At least 78 people are still missing after the deadly storm sank a barge off the coast of Mumbai

Military vessels continue to scour the seas for at least 78 people missing from a barge that sank of the coast of Mumbai after a fierce cyclone battered India.

At least 33 people have died after Cyclone Tauktae – the most powerful storm to hit the region in two decades – unleashed 130mph winds in Gujarat state on Monday night.

Three Indian navy warships, joined by helicopters, have now rescued more than 600 people after battling extreme weather conditions including eight metre (26ft) waves, according to the defence ministry.

The search now continues to find the remaining crew members – with sources reporting up to 90 could be missing.

One survivor told how he jumped into the sea with his life jacket before he was picked up by the navy.

But among the victims of the tragedy are a child crushed by a collapsing wall, a teenage girl killed by a crumbling roof and an 80-year-old woman by a falling pole.  

More than 16,000 homes were damaged while 40,000 trees were uprooted and almost 6,000 villages were deprived of electricity in the wake of the disaster.

This morning hundreds of thousands of people remain without power – although it has been restored to around a third of properties.

This handout photograph taken on May 18, 2021 and released by the Indian Navy shows stranded workers from a barge, which had gone adrift amidst heavy rain and strong winds due to Cyclone Tauktae, being airlifted by naval personnel on an Indian Navy Seaking helicopterduring an evacuation operation, in the Arabian sea. - At least 27 people were dead and more than 90 missing on May 18 after a monster cyclone slammed India, compounding the country's woes as it recorded a new record number of coronavirus deaths in 24 hours. (Photo by - / INDIAN NAVY / AFP) (Photo by -/INDIAN NAVY/AFP via Getty Images)

The Indian Navy rescuing stranded workers from a barge after the devastating cyclone hit India’s western coast (Picture: Indian Navy /AFP via Getty Images)
Caption: People rescued by the Indian navy arrive in a helicopter at naval air station INS Shikra in Mumbai on Tuesday (Picture: AP/Rafiq Maqbool)
Cyclone Tauktae has destroyed thousands of homes in Gujarat, India (Picture: EPA)

Another rescue operation saw navy helicopters rescue 35 crew members from a second barge that ran aground north of Mumbai.

Both barges are owned by the Oil and Natural Gas corporation, the largest crude oil and natural gas company in India.

The company said the crewhad been deployed to complete offshore drilling but the barges’ anchors gave way during the storm.

The storm has now subsided into a depression centred over the south of Rajasthan state and adjoining Gujarat region, a statement by the Indian Meteorological Department said on Wednesday.

But heavy rainfall has been forecast in the area.

Cars are crushed by a fallen tree – with around 40,000 uprooted in the storm (Picture: Imtiyaz Shaikh/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
A satellite image released by NASA shows Cyclone Tauktae approaching India’s western coast.(Picture: AP)
The cyclone has unleashed devastation after hitting India’s western coast on Monday (Picture: EPA)

It comes as mountaineers in Nepal were urged to descend from high altitudes amid fears the storm could trigger severe conditions.

Hundreds of climbers, guides and staff are in the country’s peaks this month – usually when the weather is most favourable.

The cyclone unfolded as India’s healthcare system struggles to cope with a surge in Covid-19 cases, with a record 4,529 deaths in the past 24 hours.

Doctors in India have warned about potential new symptoms of coronavirus affecting the eyes and mouth.

‘This is one of the most powerful cyclones we’ve faced in India for decades, and after weeks of chaos and devastating loss of life caused by Covid-19, it could not have come at a worse time,’ said Santanu Chakraborty of the charity Save the Children.

‘Thousands of children and their families have lost their homes and their livelihoods, and the damage caused to roads and infrastructure will put even more pressure on local administrations already struggling to cope with the fallout from the pandemic.’

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