Heavy rain delayed the resumption of rescue operations on Friday to find those missing in the Mahad bridge collapse over the Savitri river on the Mumbai-Goa highway on Tuesday.
National Disaster Relief Force (NDRF) officials said the search and rescue operations which were to resume early Friday morning, could start only after 8 am.
“It was raining the whole night in Mahad on Thursday and the river has once again become tough to tackle. We are putting all our efforts to trace the missing vehicles and the people who were travelling in them,” said an NDRF official.
Around 150 NDRF personnel have been scanning the river on speed boats. But the strong current in the swollen river has made their task difficult.
By the time rescue operations ended on Thursday, rescuers had recovered 15 bodies from different places, one of them 150 km downstream. A total of 42 people are feared dead in the bridge collapse. Raigad deputy collector Satish Vagal told Hindustan Times that the casualty estimate was based on information provided by family members of people missing since the accident. There were also reports of a couple of two and three-wheelers missing from the highway and feared drowned in the bridge collapse, he said.
Despite the massive search operations rescuers have not been able find any of the missing vehicles so far.
Among the deceased whose bodies have been found are Shrikant Kamble (53), who was at the wheel of Jaigad-Mumbai bus, and Rajapur-Borivali bus conductor, Prabhakar Baburao Shinde. While Kamble’s body was found 150 km away Anjarle in Ratnagiri district, that of Shinde was found at Kemburli near Mahad.
“The bodies of two women — Shevanti Mirgal and Sneha Baikar — who were travelling in Tavera car were recovered from Harihareshwar in Raigad district and at Rajewadi near Mahad while the body of the third woman, Ranjana Vaje, was recovered from Kemburli,” Vagal told PTI.
The British-era bridge on the Mumbai-Goa highway caved in on Tuesday night, sending two buses, an SUV and a car plunging into the flooded river near Mahad town, about 170 km from Mumbai.
In the state assembly on Thursday, Maharashtra chief minister Devendra Fadnavis announced a judicial probe into the incident.
Families of those killed will be assisted with the ex-gratia of Rs 5 lakh each, he said.
Transport minister Diwakar Raote announced either a government job to a family member of the deceased staff of the two MSRTC buses that were washed away or compensation of Rs 10 lakh each.
As the government came under opposition attack for the accident, said to be result of lack of the maintenance of the 88-year-old bridge, Fadnavis said a structural audit of old bridges will be completed at the earliest.
About 20 boats are involved in the search and rescue operations. The Coast Guard, Navy and local fishermen are part of the rescue operations.
On Thursday, a 300-kg magnet was also lowered into the river with the help of a crane to trace the missing buses, a state disaster management official said. But it drew a blank.