The National Disaster Response Force and the Indian Navy are likely to call off search operations on the Savitri river, after more than a week of scouring the area for victims of the bridge collapse. The state government, however, will continue surveying the area until all bodies are found.
Relief and rehabilitation minister Chandrakant Patil hinted on Wednesday there was no point continuing with search and rescue, as the bodies are unlikely to be recovered in sound condition.
“The central agencies are finding it difficult as there are many crocodiles in the riverbed. We hope the missing people are in the two state transport buses that are yet to be traced. But we will have to decide about the operation very soon,” he said. Patil said a few boats will operate.
The agencies and the government said they may be able to spot the two ST buses by Thursday as the water has started receding, and hope the remaining bodies are trapped in them.
Four teams - 40 jawans from the NDRF and 25 from coast Guards,16 boats and several divers were part of the rescue operation that began on August 3. The teams have so far found 26 of the 42 people who went missing after the river washed away the bridge at Mahad.
To ensure financial aid reaches the kin of the victim quickly, the state on Wednesday decided to tweak a rule to announce the missing as dead in two months, instead of seven years. “Existing rules state a person not traceable for seven years is to be declared dead. We have decided make an exception in this case, so the families are compensated with immediate effect,” Patil said.
He also announced to raise the compensation to the next of kin of the deceased in private vehicle. The relatives of the passengers in the ST buses will be compensated with 14 lakh, while families of the passengers in the private vehicles will be compensated with Rs10 lakh each.
The government has already announced a judicial probe into the accident. The scope and the name of the retired judge is yet to be finalised. Patil said a team of three experts from IIT-Bombay has started an audit of about 100 bridges constructed during British rule.