Rescue teams on Monday fished out bodies of five Hyderabad-based engineering students, who were swept away in River Beas by the sudden gush of water released without warning from the reservoir of a power project. The fate of 19 of their classmates, on an excursion, and a tour operator is unknown.
A massive operation involving 500 rescuers, rafters and deep divers from the Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP), Sashastra Seema Bal (SSB), Himachal Police and the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) was underway for the missing persons.
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Chief minister Virbhadra Singh ordered a high-level inquiry and suspended three functionaries of the 126 MW Larji hydro power project. The Himachal Pradesh high court also took suo motu cognisance of the “grave negligence” on part of the project authorities, directing the state government to file a status report on the disturbing incident within seven days.
Engineering student Chetan Kumar accused the local administration of ‘sloppiness’. “We did not hear any alarms and there was no signboard prohibiting us from going near the river,” said the 22-year-old, who rescued two of his friends.
Of the five bodies — three females and two males — pulled out from the waters, four have been identified as Akula Vijehtha, Banothu Ram Babu, Gampala Aishwarya and Lakshmi Gaythri Appanbhotla. There is no trace of the others so far, and authorities fear the worst, describing chances of their survival as slim.
Read: Parents of missing students to fly to Himachal
Watch: Kin of missing engineering students await their return
Union HRD minister Smriti Irani, who visited the accident spot, assured all possible assistance from the centre to the state in the rescue operation.
Terming the incident as unfortunate, chief minister Singh said, “I think the teachers should have taken precaution so that the students didn’t go to the riverbed. But I don’t want to blame anybody.”
Smriti Irani visits Mandi, assures support for missing students