A navy team of 12 members equipped with modern gadgetry on Saturday launched a search operation for 34 pilgrims missing after a Punjab bus full of pilgrims plunged into the Parvati river on July 23.
Locating the wreckage of the bus and the bodies of the missing pilgrims is a daunting task, officials said, due the turbulent flow of the river.
Deputy Commissioner Kullu Rakesh Kanwar said six members of the team reached Kullu from Vishakhapatnam on Friday evening, while the remaining six, who could not reach the district as inclement weather prevented their flight to land at Bhunter airport on Saturday morning, are coming down by road from Chandigarh.
Members of the navy team surveyed the accident site (towards Bhunter) downstream of the river to assess the situation and chalk out a strategy for the search operation.
Navy officials told HT that the navy team carrying out the operation are equipped with SONAR of the sound navigation and ranging system, which helps in under-water detection.
However, sources said the system would not be of much help where the water current is turbulent and muddy. The sources added that rugged terrain and rocky portions of the river bed would also create problems in the search operation.
The bus, which met with an accident near Sarsari village on the Bhunter-Manikaran road, was ferrying pilgrims from Punjab to the Sikh shrine Manikaran and had 69 passengers on board, out of which 23 were injured.
The National Disaster Response Force (NDRF), the Seema Shastra Bal (SSB), the Indo Tibetan Border Police (ITBP), the Home Guard, and the Himachal police are already carrying out a search for the missing pilgrims.
However, as only twelve bodies have so far been retrieved since the incident, the government was forced to seek help of the navy to carry out a search between the accident site and Larji dam.
The 34 missing pilgrims hailed from Barnala, Mansa and Bhatinda districts of Punjab.