11 dead, 12 missing in Maharashtra dam burst

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At least 11 people were killed and 12 went missing after a small dam in Maharashtra’s coastal Konkan region breached on Tuesday night following incessant rains, leading to a flood-like situation in downstream villages.

The Tiware dam burst around 9.30 pm, sweeping away 13 of the 18 houses in Bhendewadi hamlet. Half a dozen villages and hamlets downstream — Dadar, Akle, Riktoli, Ovali, Kalkavne and Nandivase — were inundated in the flash flood. The total population of the affected villages is around 3,000.

The water has receded now, but the slush remains.

Eleven bodies have been recovered till Wednesday evening. One survivor was found around dusk some 3-4 km away from the dam site. Search and rescue operations will resume on Thursday. 

The chances of survival of 12 others are slim but their relatives and the government machinery have not lost hopes.

“We believe there could be more survivors,” said Ratnagiri disaster management officer Ajay Suryawanshi.

There were complaints that the government neglected locals’ pleas for maintenance of the dam. They claimed to have written to the administration about cracks in the walls of the dam, but no action was taken.

Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis has constituted a high-level probe committee.

“It is unfortunate and serious,” said Water Resources Minister Girish Mahajan who admitted that locals have been complaining about the breaches. “There were complaints and correspondence. Repairs were also done, but there are issues. Was the work shoddy? Was there negligence? Was there corruption? The probe will cover all these aspects,” he said.

The capacity of the Tiware dam is nearly 2,452 million cubic metres. The dam was commissioned in 2001; the last major repair was done in 2008. On May 9, 2019, the district water conservation officer inspected the dam. Necessary repairs were done then.

“It all happened in a flash... everything is lost,” said Tanaji Chavan, a former sarpanch of Tiware, who lost several members of his family and extended family.

The Ratnagiri disaster management unit, civic staff and two units of NDRF from Pune and Sindhudurg were involved in the search and rescue operations, which were hampered by intermittent rain and darkness.

The state government announced an ex gratia of Rs 4 lakh to the kin of the deceased. It has also decided to reconstruct the hamlet and rehabilitate the people.

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