Even as the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) called off their operations to search the five missing tourists who went missing on May 7, their relatives are not ready to give up hopes. As many as 60 people including relatives and villagers from Ranewal and Chahrmajra villages on Wednesday undertook extensive digging to search the bodies presumed to be buried under flood debris at Loti Khad, 60 kilometers from the capital town.
On May 10, flash flood triggered by cloudburst in Loti Khad swept away eight people of which three were rescued, while there is no trace of remaining five which include four from Punjab and a guide from Uttarakhand. Lacking expertise to search the missing persons through rubbles, the government called NDRF on May 11 for the search operation. The NDRF called-off the operation on May 14 after observing that the possibility of bodies buried under debris was remote.
However, few relatives of the missing tourists continue to camp along river Sutlej in the hope to sight the bodies somewhere in the muddy water. “We held a meeting and decided that people from both villages will go to the spot and start their search operation,” an uncle of one of the missing youth Hardeep Singh told HT over the telephone.
Four of the missing tourists have been identified as Sharanpreet Singh (22), Hardeep Singh (20), Evanjot Singh (20) from Ranewal; Amanpreet Singh (20) of Chahrmajra in Nawanshahr while the fifth tourist from Uttarakhand is yet to be identified.
Chief minister Virbhadra Singh, who visited the flash flood affected area had assured the villagers to deploy an excavator to dig-up the debris. But adding to the agony of the kins of the missing tourists, the excavator developed snag and the digging work was being carried manually.
Hardeep’s father Bhupender Singh, said they did not want to leave out any chance of recovering their children. “The government tried their best. We want to put all our efforts too,” he said.
Shimla deputy commissioner (DC) Rohan Chand Thakur said the state machinery including home guards, fire brigade and police department had put their efforts along with the NDRF team. “There is no success so far. I am told that villagers from Nawanshahr have arrived there,” he said.
“We have no problem if they want to search bodies in the Khad. However NDRF had expressed that there was only 1% possibility of bodies being buried under the debris,” Thakur told HT, adding that so far they had not approached the local administration.
Local admin to take care of Punjab villager’s need
Meanwhile, the local administration on Wednesday deployed an excavator. It also cleaned up the Rain Basera building, where the NDRF team was putting up. “If they approach us, we will arrange their stay,” an officer said.
May 10: Flashflood swept away 5 people
May 11: NDRF called
May 12: NDRF arrived
May 13: Sniffer dog searched the area but no success
May 14: NDRF winded up the operation
May 15: Relatives moved back home
May 18: More than 60 villagers arrived at Loti Khad to search the missing