Varaprada Captain, engineer identified: 85 bodies found, Navy says all accounted for, search to go on until each identified

So far 15 bodies have been recovered from the shore — eight in Raigad district of Maharashtra and seven in Valsad in Gujarat.

Bodies of the captain and another crew member of the tug boat Varaprada, which sank during Cyclone Tauktae last Monday, were identified from among several bodies that came ashore on the Maharashtra and Gujarat coast over the weekend, Yellow Gate police officials said Sunday.

So far 15 bodies have been recovered from the shore — eight in Raigad district of Maharashtra and seven in Valsad in Gujarat.

Bodies of 62-year-old Nagendra Kumar, captain of Varaprada, and Umeed Singh, its second engineer, were among those that washed ashore at Valsad in Gujarat.

They were identified by Francis K Simon, chief engineer of the boat, who was one of only two of the boat’s survivors. Varaparada sank with 11 of its 13 crew.

“Nagendra Kumar is ex-Indian Navy. He had sent the distress call to Maritime Rescue Co-ordination Centre (MRCC). The police took my help to identify them. They sent me photos and I identified them,” Simon told The Indian Express from Kochi. The second survivor from the tug boat is 23-year-old sailor Saheb Bhunia.

They were picked up by INS Kolkata that spotted them in a life raft within hours of Varaprada sinking.

Meanwhile, on Sunday, the Indian Navy recovered four more bodies during search operations in the sea. They are searching in an area measuring approximately 10,000 square miles around the spot where P 305, an accommodation barge, sank some 50 km from the Mumbai shore last Monday.

A total of 261 people were on board P 305, of which 186 were rescued. Search boats have now recovered a total of 70 bodies from the sea. The Navy believes the four bodies are of persons in P 305.

A total of 14 people are yet to be accounted for, five from the barge and nine from Varaprada. But with the bodies recovered from both the sea on Sunday and those found on the shore, the Indian Navy on Sunday said that all those who went missing from P 305 and Varaprada are now accounted for, but search operations would continue pending final confirmation through identification of the recovered bodies.

Police said eight bodies that came ashore at Raigad were brought back to Mumbai on Sunday. A police team has also been sent to Gujarat to try and identify the remaining six bodies found on the Valsad coast.

“We will use DNA tests to identify highly decomposed bodies. They could be either from Varaprada or barge P 305,” said the police official.

In a related development, the Indian Navy said that INS Makar crew and divers did not find any bodies in the wreck of P-305 and it has moved to locate and check the wreck of Varaprada to find out if any bodies are stuck in it.

At the mortuary of JJ hospital where these bodies are kept, till Sunday evening, 45 were identified and handed over and 23 remain unidentified. DNA test will be done to identify them.

Speaking to The Indian Express, Rajdeepsinh Jhala, Superintendent of Police, Valsad, said, “Two other bodies found on Saturday also appear to be from the tugboat or barge. We are in the process of identifying the remaining bodies including three found on Sunday. We have also found some clothing material from the sea and are using them to identify the victims. Contact has been made with Mumbai Police to help us identify the six others and investigation is on.”

The four bodies found in Valsad district on Saturday were wearing life jackets (three at Tithal beach and one at the sea coast in Dungri taluka). Police had also found two abandoned boats at the sea shore in Umargam of Valsad on Saturday.

On Sunday, three more bodies were found in Valsad district, two near a temple near Tithal beach, and one at the shore in Magod village.

With inputs from ENS Ahmedabad

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