Helicopter pulls two crew to safety in torrential rain and high winds
Indian Navy rescues crew from UAE vessel off Kerala coast
Two crew members aboard an Abu Dhabi-registered floating dock were rescued by the Indian Navy in stormy weather conditions early on Tuesday.
The drama unfolded when the vessel detached from a tug off the coast of Kerala.
Buffeted by winds gusting at 25 knots and torrential rain, a naval helicopter hovered for about 20 minutes above the vessel as two Indonesian crew stranded on board were winched up to safety.
The floating dock Al Fattan enroute from Sabang in Indonesia to Abu Dhabi carried a ship, barge and speedboat. It was being towed by a tug when it drifted and moved toward Thottapally in Alappuzha on Monday in rough monsoon conditions.
Both crew are safe, medically fit and immigration procedures are being completed, Indian officials said.
The Al Fattan company in Abu Dhabi declined to comment.
“We had information about the stranded vessel but no assistance was sought initially because we presumed that the salvage team or agents of the company would be able to handle the issue. But sometime last night the crew requested the coast guard for help,” said Sridhar Warrier, Indian Defence public relations officer based in Kochi.
The Indian Coast Guard were alerted by villagers who saw the dock run aground near an embankment. The vessel could be seen from shore but not reached by divers due to high waves and a rocky sea wall.
Once the coast guard realised rescue from land was not possible, they called the navy for assistance. Rescue was required since the crew were low on food supplies.
“Torrential rain was only one part of the adverse conditions because this was not a normal place where we could land the helicopter," Commander Warrier said about the rescue carried out by the Indian Naval Air Squadron INAS 322.
"There were pylons up to 20 metres on top of the floating dock jutting out from all four sides.
"To make the approach, the pilot had to be steady. You risk the danger of the rotor blades touching the pylons and there would have been a catastrophe at hand,”
The waves pounding over a constantly moving dock was an added obstacle.
“The civilians had to lie down in a stretcher because of the high winds and had to be winched up together because to go back down twice would have been difficult.”
The entire operation was handled by two pilots and a crew member who controlled the winch. The mission took a total of two hours, from leaving their base in Kochi.
Indian Coast Guard said villagers reported that crew members signalled for help from the 105-metre floating dock on Monday.
“The problem was there was no communication on board so my team had to wave and signal via hand movements to understand how many people were on board. There was no choice but to do an aerial operation because no vessel could approach from shore as there was a sea wall,” said KL Arun, coast guard press officer.
The crew have been medically examined, pronounced fit and will soon be handed over to the Al Fattan company, he said.
The floating dock left Indonesia on June 22 for Abu Dhabi and had been waiting off the coast off Kochi since July 13 awaiting logistic support, Indian officials said.