Having had no success in tracing bodies of the pilgrims missing after a Manikaran-bound bus from Punjab plunged into the Parvati river on July 23, the 14-member navy team has pulled back from the search operation.
The state government had turned to the navy to trace the missing victims after its 600-strong rescue teams failed to find most of the missing passengers. As a result, a navy team comprising expert divers equipped with hand-held and side sonars, two rubberised boats and two hydrographers had launched a search operation between the accident site near Sarsari village and Larji dam on August 1.
The engagement of the navy team had raised the hopes of relatives of the missing pilgrims. However, the team's equipment failed to prove effective in finding the bodies due to the turbulent and muddy waters of the Parvati river, as sonar requires stable water to detect anything under water.
Confirming the development, Kullu deputy commissioner Rakesh Kanwar said the personnel from National Disaster Response Force, Indian Tibet Border Police, Sashastra Seema Bal, Home Guard and Himachal Police would continue the search operation in the area.
There were 69 people on board the bus of which 23 escaped with injuries. While 14 bodies have been recovered, 32 are missing.
With the latest development, the victims' kin are now looking for divine intervention. The relatives have been offering prayers at a local gurdwara where a karsevak organisation and district administration is providing food and boarding facility to the victims' families.
Gurmail Singh, a native of Punjab, whose son was on board the ill-fated bus, said, "Our hopes have dashed with the navy team pulling back from the operation. Now only the Almighty could do a miracle and help locate my son."