(Update 1: adds info about missing people)
New Delhi, May 18 (EFE).- At least 17 people have been killed by the powerful cyclone Tauktae on India’s western coast, while authorities on Tuesday continued to search for 93 people missing after a barge drifted off into the Arabian Sea and sank due to the storm.
Barge P-305, with 273 people onboard, sank around 35 nautical miles away from Mumbai, even as a rescue operation with navy vessels, planes and helicopters had been already launched on Monday and had managed to rescue 180 survivors, the Indian defense ministry said in a series of statements.
The search for the missing persons continues by both sea and air, authorities said Tuesday evening.
The search and rescue teams managed to rescue 35 crew members of another barge, along with helping people onboard three other barges off the coast of the western state of Gujarat.
“The sea continues to be extremely rough with sea state 4-5 and winds 25-30 knots (approx 35 – 55 kmph), posing a challenge to the ships and aircraft involved in SAR operations,’ said the statement.
Earlier, the extremely severe cyclone Tauktae killed 17 people and wreaked havoc in the coastal states of Karnataka, Maharashtra and Gujarat, where it made landfall on Monday night.
By Tuesday afternoon, the storm had weakened, while bringing heavy rains and gusty winds to Gujarat and its adjoining regions.
“Officially, so far, three death reports have been recorded (in Gujarat),” Chief Minister Vijay Rupani told reporters.
Rupani said the dead included a boy, who died in a house collapse, and an 80-year-old woman.
Heavy rains and winds disrupted the power supply in about 2,500 villages and caused extensive damage to some 16,500 homes, Rupani said.
Some 40,000 trees got uprooted, the chief minister noted.
By Monday at least six people had been killed by Tauktae in Maharashtra and eight in neighboring Karnataka.
The cyclone forced the evacuation of more than 200,000 people in Gujarat and around 12,500 in Maharashtra.
The Indian Navy reported Tuesday that it rescued 177 people stranded in vessels on the Arabian Sea.
According to data from the Indian Meteorological Department (IMD), the cyclone made landfall Monday night with gusty winds of up 185 km per hour.
Tauktae added to woes as India registers a record number of daily Covid-19 infections and deaths amid a devastating second wave of the pandemic.
The country Tuesday crossed a grim milestone of 25 million infections since the pandemic began, with a new record of more than 4,300 deaths in the last 24 hours from Monday morning.
Vaccination drive got suspended in many cyclone-hit areas as the storm also put hospitals at risk.
Cyclones often hit the Indian coast, leaving a trail of death and destruction.