Mandi (Himachal Pradesh): Rescuers Tuesday scoured the Beas river in Mandi, where a wall of water washed away a group of engineering college students two days ago, leaving at least five dead and 19 missing.
Rescue workers Tuesday carried out a search operation on the second day to locate 19 students of the engineering college in Hyderabad and a tour operator who went missing after the strong current of the Beas river washed them away near Mandi town.
Aisa Hussain, whose son was swept away in the river, said: “I want my child back. No stone should be left unturned.”
“He should be traced at all costs. If he’s not alive, I want the body of my son back,” she told IANS.
She is among the parents of the 19 missing students camping in Mandi town and desperately waiting to hear about their sons and daughters.
“I fail to understand how my son, who was a very good swimmer, was swept away,” said B.V. Suba Rao, whose son is also on the list of missing persons.
He said most of the children who were drowned due to the negligence of the dam officials were brilliant students.
The students who survived the tragedy returned to Hyderabad late Monday and some of them recounted the horror they went through. They said they were clicking pictures on the river bank when water from the hydropower project dam was released without warning.
The bodies of four victims, which were brought to Hyderabad by a defence aircraft in the early hours of Tuesday and handed over to their relatives, were cremated.
Heart rending scenes were witnessed as the parents of the victims arrived at Begumpet airport. A large number of relatives and friends of the victims gathered to receive the bodies that the aircraft brought from Delhi.
The last rites of B. Rambabu were performed in his village in Nalgonda district, while A. Vijetha, G. Aishwarya and Lakshmi Gayathri were cremated in Hyderabad.
The grief-stricken parents of Vijetha were inconsolable as the funeral pyre was lit at Panjagutta crematorium. Other family members and Vijetha’s friends from the college were seen consoling them. Representatives from the management of the college also attended the funeral.
Jaideep Singh, commanding officer of the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF), told IANS: “We have traced five bodies in the past two days.”
He said a team of 84 people, comprising 10 underwater divers, carried out the search operation in the river from Thalaut near Hanogi Mata temple, the accident spot, to the Pandoh dam.
The dam is some 15 km downstream from the accident spot.
Mandi Deputy Commissioner Devesh Kumar said the water level in the river stretch, where the search operation was on, lowered by four feet for the divers to reach the bed.
The body of the fifth victim Devashish Bose will be flown to Hyderabad Tuesday evening.
A pall of gloom descended on the house of Bose in Central Excise Colony in Bagh Amberpet in Hyderabad. The shocked parents of the student had rushed to Himachal Monday on hearing of the tragedy.
More than 60 students and faculty members of the V.N.R. Vignana Jyothi Institute of Engineering and Technology in Hyderabad were on an excursion to Manali.
Some of them were getting themselves photographed on the bank of the river Sunday evening when the sudden rush of water washed them away.
The river level suddenly increased due to release of water from the Larji hydropower project dam, located near the accident spot, without warning, witnesses said.
Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh directed the state power department to take extra precaution while discharging water from the dams, a government statement said.
He said safety norms should be strictly enforced and before releasing the water, announcements should be made through vehicles besides use of hooters.
The chief minister said fencing on a two-three km stretch would be done at all dams besides other sensitive and dangerous zones and proper sign boards would be installed in such areas.
He said an inquiry has been ordered and action would be taken against those found negligent in the incident.
The state government has announced a compensation of Rs.150,000 each for the next of kin of the victims.
Telangana Home Minister Nayani Narasimha Reddy was camping in Mandi for the second day to monitor rescue and relief work.
“We are making all efforts to retrieve the bodies as early as possible but the rescue teams are facing problems due to water level and the sand,” he said.
The accident spot is located some 200 km from Shimla and on the border of Kullu and Mandi districts.