Barge with 23 workers on board sinking off Ullal coast

Barge with 23 workers on board sinking off Ullal coast

Barge with 23 workers on board sinking off Ullal coast

Twenty-three workers building an offshore reef in the Arabian Sea about 300 metres from the coast near Ullal are desperately waiting to be rescued as their barge hit a boulder and started listing on Saturday. The offshore reef is being built under the ADB-funded Sustainable Coastal Protection and Management Investment Program to check sea erosion.

The Indian Coast Guard ship Amartya reached the spot at 5 pm, but rough waves prevented it from starting the rescue operation.

A dinghy was pressed into service around 6.30 pm. There were 27 workers on the barge. Four were rescued till 8.30 pm when the rescue operation was stopped. It will resume on Sunday, police said. The rescued people, however, could not be brought to the Ullal coast. They are on the Coast Guard ship.

The barge finished the first phase of the work on Thursday afternoon. All went well until 1.30 pm on Saturday when the barge hit the boulders dumped on the reefs as the anchor broke. The barge started listing. As per the standard operating procedure, the crew in the barge fired twice to show its location for the approaching ship.

‘Water entering barge’

Among the 27 workers, Shobhith is a local man while the rest are from outside Karnataka. Shobhith’s father said his son was in touch with him till 4 pm. His phone then went dead.

“Some of the people on board don’t know how to swim. We are all wearing life jackets,” Shobhith, a resident of Pandeshwar, reportedly told his father.

Speaking to a local journalist, Shobhith requested the authorities to send a helicopter to save them, saying water was entering the barge.