Over 40 hours after the swollen Savitri river in Mahad washed away a century-old British era bridge, taking with it two buses and at least one SUV, search and rescue teams are losing hope of finding survivors. However, relatives of the missing are still optimistic.
At least 29 persons are missing and feared dead in the accident.
Search teams, along with locals, have recovered five bodies including the driver of a Jaigad-Mumbai bus and two women who were travelling in an SUV. The body of the bus driver – who has been identified one Srikant Kamble – was found in Anjarle beach, which is about 150 kilometers from the site of the accident, said Raigad collector Sheetal Ugale.
The women were identified as Ranjana Vaze and her mother Shevanti Mirgal. Their bodies were recovered from Kenburli and Harihareshwar respectively, authorities said.
Local fishermen involved in search operation said they found an unidentified body of a young man near Dadli bridge while another body of a man was discovered near Dasgaon.
Search teams have also recovered metal parts of one of the buses from around four kilometers from the accident spot.
Search and rescue operations resumed on Thursday morning after a break in the night. Incessant rain in the area have been making the operations difficult. The Savitri river too continues to be a raging torrent of muddy water.
Earlier, a boat carrying four NDRF jawans capsised, but all personnel returned safely to the river bank.
NDRF officials said they have been joined by scuba divers from Malval. Two helicopters from the Navy and Indian Coast Guard along with river rafters have also been pressed into the operation.
Local administration say that it is difficult to make an exact assessment of casualties as locals say that more than two vehicles may have been washed away in the river.
“Based on the information shared by one eyewitness, we suspect two buses have been washed away. Apart from people travelling in two ST buses, we have appealed to people to come forward if their kin who were supposed to have travelled from this road have not reached their destinations,” said Sheetal Ugale, district collector, Raigad.
Around 60% of the 100-year-old bridge, connecting Mahad and Poladpur, gave way at around 11:30 pm. The dark made it difficult for rescue teams to begin their operations for the first few hours, said locals.
According to eyewitness Basant Kumar, two Mumbai bound buses fell into the river after the bridge crumbled within seconds. “I first noted a bus going down. Within moments I saw another vehicle falling in the river,” said Kumar, who works at a garage near the bridge.
Even as 40 hours have elapsed since the incident, relatives of the missing say that they are hopeful that their kin will return alive.
“My brother Avinash Malap had gone to drop our grandmother in Konkan. While there is no word of him so far, our family is positive about his return,” said Anil Malap, a resident of Vile Parle in Mumbai.
Abdul Rehman said his brother had gone to Lanja but has not returned yet. “We are all desperately awaiting a word from administration about my brother Ismail. We are praying to Allah of his safe return.”