Beas tragedy: Two more bodies fished out

Beas tragedy: Two more bodies fished out
Rescuers retrieved two more bodies Thursday from the Beas river near Mandi town, where a strong water current washed away a group of 24 engineering college students from Hyderabad last Sunday.

The retrieval takes the confirmed toll in the tragedy to eight. Sixteen students and a tour operator are still missing. The latest victims have been identified as T. Upendra and Gonoor Arvind Kumar, police said.

More than 550 rescue workers from various agencies continued with a massive search operation for the fourth day to locate the missing students. The operation was hindered by rain Wednesday.

"I am satisfied with the rescue operation. They are doing their best," Telangana Home Minister Nayani Narasimha Reddy, who is camping here, told IANS.

The tragedy occurred when a group of students, on a trip to Manali, were washed away Sunday evening when water was released into the river without a warning from a nearby hydropower project.

Police have registered a case against the 126 MW Larji hydropower project authorities for causing death by negligence and endangering life of others.

The case was registered on the basis of witnesses' accounts that the hooter was not sounded by the project officials before releasing the water into the river.

National Disaster Management Authority vice-chairman M. Shashidhar Reddy Thursday reached the accident spot, some 200 km from the state capital Shimla, to oversee the rescue and search operation being carried out by the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF).

A total of 20 divers of NDRF and 18 of the army have been involved in the search operation, focusing on the 15 km long downstream stretch of the river from the Larji hydropower project dam to the Pandoh dam.

"Our divers are basically facing the problem of poor visibility. The river bed is full of mud and silt. There are also big boulders and rocks. It's only through feeling they are recognising the objects lying beneath," Reddy told IANS.

A special underwater camera to locate the bodies was deployed Wednesday.

"The underwater camera has not made much success (due to muddy water). Now, we are going to deploy a UAV (unmanned aerial vehicle) Friday that will continuously recce the total area of operation," Reddy said.

More than 550 rescue workers from various agencies, including National Disaster Response Force (NDRF), the army, the Sashastra Seema Bal, the ITBP and the state police, continued with the dawn-to-dusk operation.

Reddy said: "Fifteen more NDRF divers will soon join the search operation. This will increase their total number to 39. We are reviewing their requirement from time to time. If need be, more will join soon."
Reddy said this was the first-of-its-kind search operation.

He said most of the eight bodies recovered so far were close to the accident site and they were either trapped under the rocks or sunk in the silt.

The body of T. Upendra, recovered Thursday morning, was entangled in rocks near the accident spot, said the rescuers.

"From today (Thursday) onwards, we are expecting that the bodies, after they get bloated, would automatically start surfacing in the water. But it can take one or two days more here as the water is cold," Reddy added.

Experts say the rate of body's decay slows in cold water or weather.

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 a wall 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," an eye-witness said.
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