AMAR Indian navy searches for 78 missing from barge sunk by storm

Indian navy ships and helicopters searched in extreme weather and rough seas Wednesday for 78 people still missing from a barge that sank off Mumbai as a deadly cyclone blew ashore this week.

Navy Cdr. Alok Anand said 183 people were rescued within 24 hours by the three ships and helicopters engaged in the operation.

A survivor told the New Delhi Television news channel that he jumped into the sea with his life jacket and was later picked up by the navy.

Two men help a motorist to wade through a waterlogged street after heavy rains in Ahmedabad, India, Tuesday, May 18, 2021. Cyclone Tauktae, the most powerful storm to hit the region in more than two decades, packed sustained winds of up to 210 kilometers (130 miles) per hour when it came ashore in Gujarat state late Monday. (AP Photo/Ajit Solanki)© Provided by Associated Press Two men help a motorist to wade through a waterlogged street after heavy rains in Ahmedabad, India, Tuesday, May 18, 2021. Cyclone Tauktae, the most powerful storm to hit the region in more than two decades, packed sustained winds of up to 210 kilometers (130 miles) per hour when it came ashore in Gujarat state late Monday. (AP Photo/Ajit Solanki)

In another operation, a navy helicopter rescued 35 crew members of another barge, GAL Constructor, which ran aground north of Mumbai, a government statement said.

An uprooted tree blocks a road after heavy rains in Ahmedabad, India, Tuesday, May 18, 2021. Cyclone Tauktae, the most powerful storm to hit the region in more than two decades, packed sustained winds of up to 210 kilometers (130 miles) per hour when it came ashore in Gujarat state late Monday. (AP Photo/Ajit Solanki)© Provided by Associated Press An uprooted tree blocks a road after heavy rains in Ahmedabad, India, Tuesday, May 18, 2021. Cyclone Tauktae, the most powerful storm to hit the region in more than two decades, packed sustained winds of up to 210 kilometers (130 miles) per hour when it came ashore in Gujarat state late Monday. (AP Photo/Ajit Solanki)

Both barges were working for Oil and Natural Gas Corp., the largest crude oil and natural gas company in India.

The company said the barges were carrying personnel deployed for offshore drilling and their anchors gave away during the storm.

A motorist and a woman wade through a waterlogged street after heavy rains in Ahmedabad, India, Tuesday, May 18, 2021. Cyclone Tauktae, the most powerful storm to hit the region in more than two decades, packed sustained winds of up to 210 kilometers (130 miles) per hour when it came ashore in Gujarat state late Monday. (AP Photo/Ajit Solanki)© Provided by Associated Press A motorist and a woman wade through a waterlogged street after heavy rains in Ahmedabad, India, Tuesday, May 18, 2021. Cyclone Tauktae, the most powerful storm to hit the region in more than two decades, packed sustained winds of up to 210 kilometers (130 miles) per hour when it came ashore in Gujarat state late Monday. (AP Photo/Ajit Solanki)

Cyclone Tauktae, the most powerful storm to hit the region in more than two decades, packed sustained winds of up to 210 kilometers (130 miles) per hour when it came ashore in Gujarat state late Monday. The storm left at least 25 dead in Gujarat and Maharashtra states.

A person who was injured and rescued by the Indian navy from the Arabian sea rests after receiving the first aid at naval air station INS Shikra in Mumbai, Tuesday, May 18, 2021. The Indian navy is working to rescue crew members from a sunken barge and a second cargo vessel that was adrift Tuesday off the coast of Mumbai after a deadly cyclone struck the western coast. (AP Photo/Rafiq Maqbool)© Provided by Associated Press A person who was injured and rescued by the Indian navy from the Arabian sea rests after receiving the first aid at naval air station INS Shikra in Mumbai, Tuesday, May 18, 2021. The Indian navy is working to rescue crew members from a sunken barge and a second cargo vessel that was adrift Tuesday off the coast of Mumbai after a deadly cyclone struck the western coast. (AP Photo/Rafiq Maqbool)

The Hindu newspaper Wednesday tallied more than 16,000 houses damaged in Gujarat state and trees and power poles uprooted.

The cyclone has weakened into a depression centered over the south of Rajasthan state and adjoining Gujarat region, a statement by the Indian Meteorological Department said on Wednesday.

In Nepal, authorities on Tuesday asked mountaineers to descend from high altitudes because the storm system may bring severe weather.

Hundreds of climbers, guides and staff are on various mountains in Nepal, trying to climb the peaks this month when weather is usually most favorable in the high altitudes. Nepal has eight of the world’s 14 highest peaks, including Mount Everest.

People rescued by the Indian navy from the Arabian sea flash the thumbs up sign after arriving in a helicopter at naval air station INS Shikra in Mumbai, Tuesday, May 18, 2021. The Indian navy is working to rescue crew members from a sunken barge and a second cargo vessel that was adrift Tuesday off the coast of Mumbai after a deadly cyclone struck the western coast. (AP Photo/Rafiq Maqbool)© Provided by Associated Press People rescued by the Indian navy from the Arabian sea flash the thumbs up sign after arriving in a helicopter at naval air station INS Shikra in Mumbai, Tuesday, May 18, 2021. The Indian navy is working to rescue crew members from a sunken barge and a second cargo vessel that was adrift Tuesday off the coast of Mumbai after a deadly cyclone struck the western coast. (AP Photo/Rafiq Maqbool)

The Department of Tourism in a statement Tuesday asked climbers and outfitting agencies to monitor the weather and stay safe.

In 2014, snowstorms and avalanches triggered by a cyclone in India killed 43 people in Nepal’s mountains in the worst hiking disaster in the Himalayan nation.

The snowstorms were believed to be whipped by the tail end of a cyclone that hit the Indian coast a few days earlier.

The blizzards swept through the popular Annapurna trekking route and hikers were caught off-guard when the weather changed quickly.

That could be about to change now that Italy has dropped Covid-19 quarantine measures for tourists arriving from EU and Schengen area countries, as well as the UK and Israel. The quarantine has also been removed for visitors travelling from the US, Canada, Japan and the United Arab Emirates onboard Covid-tested flights. All tourists will need to provide evidence of having been fully vaccinated with an EU-approved Covid-19 vaccine, of having recovered from the virus or tested negative 48 hours prior to travelling.

Like other small Italian islands, Giglio will next week vaccinate its entire population of about 1,400, as well as seasonal workers, as it readies for the summer season.

“We did surprisingly well last summer even though the season started late,” added Pellegrini. “But it’s been a long and tough winter. We practically all live off tourism, so it’s fundamental for the island’s survival.”

Giglio boasts several pristine bays with crystal clear water and is a paradise for walkers, but it is mostly known beyond Italy for the tragedy of the Costa Concordia, the cruise ship which partially sank just metres away from the island’s shore in January 2012, killing 32 people. The huge, rusting hulk of the vessel loomed over Giglio’s port – attracting plenty of day-trippers who called by for a quick photograph – before being removed in July 2014.

Sergio Ortelli, the mayor of Giglio, has since worked hard to promote the island to foreign tourists.

Associated Press Writer Binaj Gurubacharya contributed to this report from Kathmandu, Nepal.

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