VIJAYAWADA/GUNTUR: Treacherous pits gouged out of the river bed of the Krishna by sand miners claimed the lives of five college students near Gidugu village in Amaravati mandal of Guntur district on Tuesday. They waded into the river thinking it to be no more than knee high but were sucked into a pit by a whirlpool formed due to sand excavation.
The youngsters were in a group of 11 students from a Nandigama private college who went to Yetur village in Chandarlapadu mandal on their bikes for an outing on the riverside. They hired a boat to go over to the other bank on the Guntur side to bathe and swim.
The river is more than a mile wide at this spot and the water is shallow enough to wade over. But the release of water from the Pulichintala reservoir for the benefit of Krishna Pushkaram pilgrims rendered the water level high and the sand mining pits invisible.
Unaware of the depth of the river at some places, the youngsters swam too close to the pits and were sucked in by the current. Police officials rushed to the spot upon being alerted of the incident, and summoned expert swimmers and motorboats to search for the boys.
By evening, the five bodies were brought out of the river. The victims were identified as M Harish (20) of Thatarevulapadu village of Chandarlapadu mandal, P Gopi Reddy (21) of Cherukommalapalle village and V Nagesh (21), K Hari Gopal (20) and K Lokesh (21) of Nandigama town. They were all final year students of B.Com.
Police officials said there was signage on the river banks warning people not to wade into the river. "The people of Gidugu and nearby villages were alert to the threat of the sand pits. It is unfortunate that these boys ventured into deep waters," said N Sanjay, inspector-general (Guntur).
Local people tried to press Vijayawada sub-collector G Srijana for a commitment on compensation for the victims' families and she lost her composure at them. Asking them not to derive political mileae out of a tragedy, she said all issues would be decided upon after the inquest and post-mortem are performed. Supporters of opposition parties blamed illegal sand quarrying in the river
as the reason for the area becoming dangerous.