AN EERIE silence is palpable amid running of the relatives of the victims on the banks of the Sindh river near Ratangarh on Tuesday.
Three days after a flash flood swept away a stream of devotees crossing the river, 37 bodies have been recovered. Though Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan said here that only six pilgrims are missing, it is feared that the death toll could cross 100. According to unofficial accounts, around 150 people were swept away.
The rescue operation was in full swing on Tuesday in the river but no missing person’s body could be retrieved. Relatives and family members of the missing persons were desperately running from one bank to another to meet the divers.
Nearly 300 people, including officials, were present near the accident site. Temporary enclosures have been set up for post mortem and medical help. A control room, operationg in a shed, issued directions to boats to avoid overloading. Flag indicators have been put mid-stream to guide the boats.
The Mata temple shrine, but for the tragedy, would have bustled with activities with thousands of devotees congregating here during featival season.
The shrine is on a hill-top with another temple of Kuwar Babaat at some distance. Legend has it Mandula and Kuwar (brother and sister) had sacrificed their life when Mughal ruler Aurangjeb defeated them.
He wanted to take both brother and sister with him as prisoner but they refused to bow to his demand and scarificed lives. Thereafter, Samarth Ramdas (guru of Shivaji) established the temple at Ratangarh on the banks of Sindh River some 70 km from Gwalior.
Earlier in the day, Congress leaders Jamuna Devi, Govind Singh, Satya Deo Katare, MLA Ghanshyam Singh (Datia) also visited the site and took stock of rescue work. Bharatiya Janshakti chief and former CM Uma Bharti also reached Ratangarh on Tuesday afternoon.
Demanding the resignation of Chouhan, Jamuna Devi. said victims should be given compensation of Rs 5 lakh each. She said she would raise the issue in the assembly and take on the BJP government for its apathy.
Boatman Prem Kevat, Ramswaroop and other attributed the tragedy to sudden rise in water level in the wee hours. It was around 4 am when people started shouting for the help after losing balance.
They were trying to cross the river on foot with the help of human chain and without realising midstream water current. There was no prior announcement by the officials about rise in water level.
Since it was still dark in the early morning nobody realised that water current swept devotees and others continued to cross over. The death toll could be over hundred, the boatman said.