Shimla/Hyderabad: The bodies of five engineering students were retrieved yesterday from the Beas River in Himachal Pradesh’s Mandi district while a search is on for 21 others who were washed away. A court described it as “consequence of utter and callous negligence”.
The toll in Sunday’s accident could rise as chances of recovering any survivor is bleak, Himachal Additional Deputy Commissioner Pankaj Rai said.
Rai said one of the bodies was recovered from Pandoh dam, whose floodgates were closed after the accident. The dam is some 15km downstream from the accident spot. “The silent river literally turned into a watery grave within a fraction of seconds,” Kiran, one of the survivors and a faculty member of the VNR Vignana Jyothi Institute of Engineering and Technology in Hyderabad, said in Mandi town.
Kiran said the students, who were on the way to picturesque tourist resort of Manali, were taking photogrraphs on the bank of the Beas river when the disaster occurred. At least 24 students, including six girls, of the institute and one tour operator were reported missing.
More than 60 students and faculty members were on an excursion to Manali. Some of them were getting themselves photographed on the bank of the river in Thalaut area near Hanogi Mata temple when the sudden rush of water washed them away.
The river level suddenly increased due to release of water from the Larji hydropower project’s dam without warning, eye witnesses said. Anxious parents of engineering students missing in Himachal gathered at VNR college, near Hyderabad, even as the management promised to take them in a special flight.
Relatives of some students sat on protest at the college premises at Bachupalli on the outskirts of Hyderabad, alleging negligence in providing them information. The parents entered into heated arguments with the college officials, demanding immediate action to fly them to Himachal Pradesh.
There was confusion on the number of bodies being recovered. The National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) said in a statement that five bodies have been found, while state authorities said that four bodies were found.