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2,500 people to be 'rescued' from sinking cruise liner off Mumbai coast

In a dummy rescue operation, 20 state and maritime authorities will come together to test their preparedness to handle massive disasters at sea and save lives

Mumbaikars walking along Girgaum Chowpatty today may be surprised to see high drama at sea. The city is getting ready for a mammoth naval exercise called SAREX-2014, where 20 maritime agencies including the Navy, Coast Guard, Air Force and Mumbai Police would display their search and rescue skills at sea.

Scenes from the rehearsal held on Saturday show the cruise liner and the merchant vessel that would 'hit' it
Scenes from the rehearsal held on Saturday show the cruise liner and the merchant vessel that would 'hit' it

While the main drill will take place on March 20, a dry run will be held today. The artificial disaster scenario that would be created to test the preparedness of the authorities involved looks like this: A cruise liner carrying 2,500 passengers has been hit by a merchant vessel, tilting the liner to one side. Rescue workers will have to save the lives of the passengers.

Rescue boats and choppers save make-believe passengers
Rescue boats and choppers save make-believe passengers

“This is a mass search-and-rescue operation, and since it is not possible for the armed forces alone to handle such a disaster, state machineries and other maritime agencies are roped in to ensure that the entire operation is a success,” said a senior Coast Guard official.

The officer said that nearly 100 divers would pose as passengers and nearly 200 dummies would be thrown into the water to be saved. Air Force and Navy helicopters, along with patrolling vessels and rescue boats, would have to pull them out from the sea in time.

“The rescue team would then swing into action and pull out the ‘passengers’, who would then be airlifted by the helicopters and taken to INHS Asvini (the Navy hospital), and others rescued would be taken by hovercraft to Girgaum chowpatty, and rushed to St George’s Hospital in CST by ambulance,” the official said.

March 20
The day the mock rescue operation will take place

Operation minutiae
>> Special Branch, CID and Central Excise units would participate in the event
>> Mumbai Port Trust, Chowpatty, Mahalakshmi Racecourse, Fishery Harbour and INHS Asvini have been marked for the exercise
>> Operation to be supervised by senior officials from Navy, Coast Guard and Air Force
>> International dignitaries to be present at the event meant to showcase the capability of Indian defence and maritime agencies to tackle mass disaster mid-sea

>> Navy, Coast Guard, Air Force and Mumbai Police to participate 
>> Artificial calamity to be created off Girgaum chowpatty

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