The sightseeing trip to picturesque Manali turned into a tragedy for 24 young engineering students within a few seconds before they could even sense that they were in trouble. They were washed away in the swirling waters of Beas river after a sudden surge in water level submerged the big boulder they had climbed mid-river to click pictures.
“The water level started rising and within a few seconds, it was knee high. I raised alarm and ran toward the river bank. On reaching there, I turned around to see others. What I saw was horrific. The water level had suddenly risen by 3-4 feet and my students were crying for help and got swept away by gushing waters,” Kiran, one of the survivors, told Hindustan Times, narrating the final few moments before tragedy struck the tourists from Hyderabad.
Kiran, associate professor (electronics and instrumental engineering) at VNR Vignana Jyothi Institute of Engineering and Technology, said that they had as a precaution asked the locals if the site was safe and were assured about it being safe. “However, they told us that we should avoid going deep into river,” he said. Mohan Parsaran, one of the surviving students, said the incident in which his friends washed away in front of his eyes was traumatizing.
“The locals told us about release of water from the dam. Before I could tell them, my friends just vanished in the gushing stream. It may be a routine affair for them, but tourists have no idea,” he said, expressing anger over the delay in rescue operations. Parsaran said that rescue operations could not start even two hours after the incident as rescue teams did not have the equipment required to carry out search operations in deep water.
“When we stopped for refreshments at a roadside outlet, some friends were keen on clicking pictures of the river. They went to the river bank and climbed small boulder. But then everyone wanted to reach the big rock mid-river. The sudden surge in water level caught everyone off guard,” another survivor said.
Another engineering student, Chetan Kumar, 22, accused the local administration of “sloppiness”. He said that they not only did not hear the warning siren, nor was there any signboard cautioning visitors against going close to the river bank. “When I saw the water level rising, I just pulled two of my friends, but could not do anything for others,” he said.
The students, all of whom were from the private engineering college in Hyderabad, were on a study tour to Himachal Pradesh from June 3. They had reached Shimla on June 7 and were on their way to Manali when the horrific incident happened.