With several vessels of state-run Oil and Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC) having more than 600 people stranded at sea, the government has set up a high-level enquiry committee to ascertain the causes and lapses that have led to loss of lives.

In its order issued on Wednesday, ministry of petroleum and natural gas

“has set up a High Level Committee to enquire into the sequence of events leading to the stranding of ONGC vessels in the cyclone.”

According to the upstream explorer, cyclone Tauktae hit ONGC’s major production installations and drilling rigs. These were Barge ‘Papaa–305’, Barge ‘Support Station-3’, Barge ‘Support Station-3’, Barge ‘Gal Constructor’ and drill ship ‘Sagar Bhushan’.

Indian Navy is conducting search and rescue operations off Mumbai and Gujarat coast, with ships and aircraft trying to find out the missing crew members of accommodation Barge P-305, which sank on Monday, 35 miles off Mumbai.

“Several vessels of ONGC with more than 600 people on board, were stranded in offshore areas during cyclone “Tauktae”. The stranding, drifting and subsequent events have led to loss of several lives,” the ministry said in a statement.

The committee members are Director General of Shipping Amitabh Kumar, Director General of Hydrocarbons S.C.L. Das, and Nazli Jafri Shayin, joint secretary in defence ministry and will submit their report within one month.

“Due to the severe cyclonic storm, unfortunate incidences have occurred involving three construction barges of M/s Afcons working on a project of ONGC in Western Offshore fields in the Arabian Sea and one drilling rig of ONGC deployed for exploration purpose,” ONGC said in an 18 May statement.

Indian Navy has rescued 186 survivors from barge P-305 and two from Varapradha tug boat. Also support station 3 and drill ship Sagar Bhushan are being towed back to Mumbai by ONGC support vessels.

Apart from making its recommendations to prevent such disasters, the committee has been tasked with finding out the sequence of events leading to the stranding and drifting of these vessels. Also, it will ascertain whether the warnings issued by Meteorological Department and other statutory authorities were followed. It will also find out whether the standard operating procedures for securing vessels and disaster management were followed and point out the lapses and gaps in the systems that led to the disaster that could have been prevented.

This comes in the backdrop of Prime Minister Narendra Modi announcing

ex-gratia of Rs2 lakh to the next of kin of the deceased and Rs50,000 to the seriously injured in the cyclone in Kerala, Karnataka, Goa, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Rajasthan, Daman and Diu, and Dadra and Nagar Haveli.

PM Modi also announced a Rs1000 crore financial assistance for immediate relief activities in Gujarat. Tauktae made landfall in Gujarat, causing damage to life and property.

“The Prime Minister said that the Centre is working closely with the affected state governments in the wake of the situation post the cyclone. Immediate financial assistance for these states would also be given after the respective state governments would share their assessments with the Centre,” the Prime Minister’s Office said in a statement.

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