Indian Navy ships have recovered 22 bodies of people who were aboard a barge that sank off Bombay when a cyclone exploded ashore this week, officials said.
The search continues for 55 more missing people, Navy spokesman Mehul Karnik said on Wednesday.
He said the three ships and helicopters involved in the search had rescued 184 people in rough seas with waves of up to seven meters (25 feet).
Cyclone Tauktae, the most powerful storm to hit the region in more than two decades, packed sustained winds of up to 210 km (130 miles) per hour when it landed in the state of Gujarat on Monday afternoon. The storm left more than 50 dead in the states of Gujarat and Maharashtra.
The weather has improved since then and the search for missing people has intensified, said Navy Commander Alok Anand.
A survivor told the NDTV news channel that he threw himself into the sea with his life jacket and was later picked up by the Navy.
In another operation, a Navy helicopter rescued 35 crew members from another barge, GAL Constructor, which ran aground north of Bombay, according to a government statement.
Both barges worked for Oil and Natural Gas Corp., the largest oil and natural gas company in India.
The company said the barges carried personnel deployed for marine drilling and their anchors were given away during the storm. India’s large offshore oil rigs lie in front of Bombay.
The Hindu newspaper reported that more than 16,000 homes were damaged by the cyclone in the state of Gujarat, the home state of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who on Wednesday conducted an aerial study of the areas affected by the storm.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi conducts an aerial study of the #CycloneTauktae affected areas of Gujarat and Diu
The Prime Minister conducts an aerial survey of areas like Una, Diu, Jafarabad and Mahuva today. He will also hold a review meeting in Ahmedabad later. pic.twitter.com/fJMJFDZJsf
– ANI (@ANI) May 19, 2021
The storm has accumulated pressure on Indian authorities as they face a massive rise in coronavirus infections and deaths, in addition to the shortage of beds and oxygen in hospitals.
In Gujarat, among the states hardest hit by the second wave of the coronavirus, the cyclone has ripped off electricity pylons, damaged some 16,500 homes and blocked more than 600 roads, authorities said.
It is likely that the state agricultural sector has also been successful, including Saurashtra’s main mango growing belt.
Officials said works to restore electricity supply and clean the roads were underway, but some parts were still cut.
“Mobile phone networks continue to fall in many areas and I don’t think they will be restored today (Wednesday),” Aayush Oak, Gujarat’s top Amreli district chief, told Reuters news agency.
The storm has weakened in a depression centered in the southern state of Rajasthan and the adjoining region of Gujarat, India’s Meteorological Department said on Wednesday.
In neighboring Nepal, authorities asked mountaineers to descend from high altitudes because the storm could cause severe weather.
Hundreds of climbers, guides and staff are trying to climb several mountains in Nepal this month, when the weather is usually most favorable at high altitudes. Nepal has eight of the 14 highest peaks in the world, including Mount Everest.
Nepal’s tourism department on Tuesday called on climbers and equipment agencies to monitor the weather and stay safe.
In 2014, snowstorms and avalanches triggered by a cyclone in India killed 43 people in the mountains of Nepal in the Himalayan nation’s worst hiking disaster.
Snowstorms were believed to have been whipped by the tail end of a cyclone that hit the Indian coast a few days earlier.
Snowstorms swept the popular hiking trail at Annapurna and hikers were trapped unsafe when the weather changed rapidly.