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Hope Fades for Kin of Missing City Students

Bodies of five engineering students from Hyderabad, who were washed away in the turbulent

Published: 10th June 2014 08:58 AM  |   Last Updated: 10th June 2014 08:58 AM   |  A+A-

CHANDIGARH: Bodies of five engineering students from Hyderabad, who were washed away in the turbulent waters of river Beas along with 21 others, including 19 of their classmates, were retrieved Monday even as Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh ordered a magisterial probe and suspended two senior engineers and a fitter of the Larji Hydropower Project for alleged negligence.

The 24 students — 18 boys and six girls — all from the VNR Vignana Jyothi Institute of Engineering and Technology, Bachupally, were washed away when the Larji dam authorities released water without prior warning around 6.30 p.m. Sunday. The victims were snapping photos in the river at the time. They were part of a group of 49 students and three lecturers from the college who had gone on a sightseeing trip to Himachal Pradesh on June 3. The rescue operations resumed this morning at 5 a.m. and the first body was fished out half-an-hour later. When reports last came in bodies of three girls and two boys were retrieved. The chances of survival of the missing students are slim given the strong river current and deposits of silt and waste. An official, involved in the search and rescue operation, told Express, “The high discharge of water and shortage of boats is causing some problem but we have a list of the missing persons and hope to recover the bodies. Our jawans are moving in boats and a strict vigil is being maintained along the river bank.”

The 70-member rescue teams, comprising two battalions of the SSB, assisted by police, homeguard and local divers and rafters, were joined by two teams of the National Disaster Response Force from Delhi and BBMB divers in the afternoon. While one body was found near the spot where the students drowned, four others were retrieved from the

Pandoh dam. The rescue teams are focusing their search between Thalot and Pandoh dam.

Himachal Pradesh DGP Sanjay Kumar said the students were coming from Manali and stopped by to take photos at the river.  “The students and faculty members from the engineering college in Hyderabad were on the trip to Manali. The incident happened at Thalot near Mandi when they got down by the riverside.”

The discharge of water from the Larji dam without prior warning and the consequent tragedy sparked protests in the area with locals blocking the Mandi-Manali highway on Monday. The Union Home Ministry has sought a report from the State on the incident. Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh, who visited the spot, has ordered a magisterial inquiry by Divisional Commissioner, Mandi, to fix responsibility for the tragedy and suggest measures to stop recurrence of such incidents.

He also ordered suspension of the Resident Engineer and a case has been registered against the hydropower project staff for negligence.

Terming the incident unfortunate, Singh said, “Students had come with teachers. I think the teachers should have taken precaution that the students did not go to the riverbed. But anyway, I do not want to blame anybody.”

He claimed the alarm was working and officials at the dam had given a warning before releasing the water. Asked about the allegation of locals that there was no warning, he replied, “The warning systems are in place and the people in question here may be having a different ideology. Check political affiliation of people who claim students were not alerted.”

Union Human Resource Development Minister Smriti Irani, who also visited the spot, said, “I was told by locals that there is a primary and secondary school functioning very close to the accident site and locals are extremely concerned about the safety of the children. My only plea to the State government is that the concern that has been expressed by locals should be addressed immediately”.

An official team from Hyderabad arrived in the evening and air-lifted the 24 students who were safe and also the four dead bodies.



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