Torrential rain in the Western Ghats hampered the rescue work at Mahad as a result of which, the search and rescue teams could find only seven bodies on Friday, taking the number of bodies recovered in the collapse of the bridge over Savitri River at Mahad on Tuesday night up to 22.
What baffled the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) teams was that there has been no trace of the vehicles, which fell into the Savitri River after the British-era bridge collapsed, taking with it at least two buses, an SUV, and a Honda City .
The NDRF personnel used various techniques including electronic sensors, fishfinders (sonar devices), massive magnets to trace the metal bodies of the vehicles, which fell into the river. What they found were a couple of small parts — one possibly of a state transport bus and another of a Honda city or Tavera — some four kilometres away from the accident spot. “There is strong possibility that the vehicles have been broken into pieces. In that case, it becomes even more difficult to discover them,” said Sanjay More, a local fisherman, who said that in the past vehicles have been recovered miles away from the Mahad bridge owing to the water currents.
On the third day, the NDRF teams had to frequently suspend their operations because of heavy rain, which led to a substantial increase of 7 feet in the water level of Savitri River. The strong currents in the Savitri River made it difficult for rescuers to venture into the river. While Mahad received more than 50mm rainfall in 12 hours, the upstream Mahabaleshwar, from where Savitri originates, has received 1,150mm rain since August 1.
The teams recovered the bodies within 15 kilometres from the bridge. The NDRF commandant Anupam Srivastav told Hindustan Times that his team is hoping that remaining bodies will be located in the next two to three days as they too will float on the surface. “There is no possibility that bodies are still stuck inside the vehicles. We will be able to trace them in the next two to three days once they start floating.”
The NDRF Commandant said his team has extended the area of search operations up to 40 kilometres from the accident spot with fishing nets installed across the bridges over the river.
Most bodies recovered so far have been found within 30 kilometres from the bridge while the body of SS Kamble washed offshore at Anjarle beach, some 150 kilometres from Mahad, the body of Shevanti Mirgal was recovered 70km away at Harihareshwar beach. Following the post-mortem, all the bodies were handed over to the relatives of victims.