3 sailors die of toxic fumes aboard barge

Mumbai, Feb 11 (IANS) Three Indian sailors died while one was in serious condition after they inhaled toxic fumes from a sludge leakage in a cargo barge off Mumbai harbour early on Saturday morning. The captain of a Singapore bulk carrier ship was rescued, an official said here.

The ship, a bulk goods carrier, MV Thor Endevour, anchored some 10 km west of Mumbai, reported the incident on the cargo barge, Orion II, around 10.45 p.m. on Friday to the Indian Coast Guard Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre (ICG-MRCC) here.

While three sailors were brought dead to the shore, one was injured. The master of Orion II, Mohammed Daud Ibrahim Kurey, 50, was saved after he was administered first aid by the ICG team.

The Orion II was engaged in unloading a cargo of wheat from MV Thor Endevour at the time of the incident late on Friday, ICG (West Region) spokesperson Sujeet Dwivedi.

The preliminary information received reported a suspected gas leak in the the barge, rendering five persons unconscious.

Later, the ICG contacted the Orion II agents Messrs. Shreekishna Agencies who informed that another barge, Shanta was preparing to tow the distressed vessel to Mumbai shore.

The ICG alerted and ordered a Coast Guard Ship C-154 for an emergency mission and the vessel commander, Deputy Commandant C. Vijay Kumar reached Orion II shortly after midnight on Saturday.

His investigations revealed that the level in the sludge tank, for collecting waste, had increased. One crewman who entered the ballast tank to fit a de-flooding pump lost consciousness due to the poisonous fumes inside, around 9.20 p.m. on Friday.

Later, four others, including the barge master, entered the tank, but they also fell unconscious one by one. The remaining four crewmen (total crew on barge was nine) above attempted to rescue them.

Kumar said the sludge tank is located three decks down in the barge and can be accessed only by a small hatch by one person at a time. The darkness and limited visibility contributed to the grave situation.

The ICG team found that of the four sailors still inside the tank, three appeared dead, and one was floating unconscious, facing upwards and feebly breathing.

He was pulled out out with a special rope and was identified as the master of Orion II Kurey. He was administered first aid by the ICG and he returned to normal.

The Coast Guard ship returned to Mumbai harbor and handed over the two crew, including Kurey, to the CISF, Mumbai Police and Mumbai Port Trust team who shifted them to Bombay Hospital.

While Kurey is stable and recovering, the other crewman Ganesh Bitta, 40, is being treated in the ICU.

The three crewmen who succumbed to the toxic fumes are identified as Mangesh Bhosale, 27, Jayanta Chaudary, 23, and Kritisk Sonkoch, 27.