Rough river bed slows down rescue efforts

Rough river bed slows down rescue efforts

The laborious task underway to retrieve bodies of missing students, who were washed away by the strong currents of the Beas on Sunday, may take many more days as several bodies are now feared to have been trapped under big boulders. 

The river bed has plenty of small and giant boulders, especially in areas where water level is generally low. Officials involved in the search operation said bodies may have sunk under the silt that is abundant downstream of such hydel power projects.

They said it could take a couple of days before bodies swell and start floating on the surface.

Over 500 personnel from various agencies involved in the search operation, up to 20-km downstream, managed to retrieve just one body on Tuesday, that of one Davashish Bose. Nineteen students are still missing and chances of survivors appear bleak. 

Shattered

Even as officials maintain it may take another 3-4 days to retrieve all the bodies, the delay in search operations has left  parents completely shattered. Several parents are camping in Thalaut village in Mandi district where the mishap occurred.

Indo-Tibetan Border Police commandant Laxman Yadav on Tuesday said negotiating through big boulders amid strong currents is a challenge, especially when the search operation is focused on visual clues to identify areas where bodies could be trapped. Deep divers have also been pressed into action.

In areas where boulders are in excess, rescue teams are unable to use mechanised boats and instead are relying on scanning the area in manual boats and on foot along the river bank where the water level is low.

No sign

The delay in search operations has filled grief-stricken parents from Hyderabad with anger and helplessness. Krishan Reddy is one such father who is inconsolable and waits helplessly for any information. 

There are no signs of his daughter Rashita who was one of the 24 students to have been swept away in the flash flood. “I don’t know where my daughter is. Bring her to me,” a distraught Reddy said.

Sudershan, another parent at the tragedy site, said he last spoke to son Ankit the morning they started from Shimla to Manali, and is waiting for a response from the rescue team. 

Telangana Home Minister Naini Narsimha Reddy, who is in Himachal Pradesh (HP), said he would submit a report to Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrasekar Rao on the sheer negligence of the authorities. 

“We will write to the prime minister seeking legal action against the authorities of Himachal Pradesh as well as the college management,” he said. 

A group of 48 students and 11 staff members of a Hyderabad-based engineering college were on a tour to Himachal Pradesh. Twenty-four students and tour operator Prahlad went missing after the flash flood. Five bodies have been recovered so far. 

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