Zee Media Bureau/Ritesh K Srivastava
Shimla: Even though a massive search operation is currently underway to find those who were washed away by the flash-floods in Beas river in the Mandi district of Himachal Pradesh on Sunday, the chances of their survival appeared dim on Monday.
State`s Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh today visited the mishap site where at least 26 people, most of them students, were washed away by the flash-floods in Beas river and promised stern action against those found guilty of negligence in the case.
"If negligence is found on anyone`s part, suitable action will be taken," Himachal CM said, adding, “I have ordered an inquiry by the commissioner and all aspects of the matter will be taken into account.”
The rescue workers have so far recovered five bodies from the Pandoh dam in Mandi district and continuing search for those still missting several hours after they were flown by the strong current in the Beas river when engineers at Larji hydropower plant allegedly discharged water into the river without warning.
“Have recovered 5 bodies till now, the volume of water is making operation a bit tough,” Sanjeev, a senior Sashastra Seema Bal (SSB) official said.
At least 24 students of the VNR Vignana Jyothi Institute of Engineering and Technology in Hyderabad, including six girls, one teacher and a tour manager, were washed away by the Beas river after its water level suddenly increased, and chances of their survival are bleak.
More than 60 students and faculty members, split in two groups, were on an excursion to the picturesque tourist resort of Manali. Some of them were getting themselves photographed on the banks of the river in Thalaut area near the Hanogi Mata temple when they were reportedly washed away as the flow in the river suddenly increased without prior warning.
The Seema Suraksha Bal, which is involved in the rescue operation, has retrieved five bodies out of the Pandoh dam this morning and a massive search operation for those missing is currently underway.
Meanwhile, Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh has ordered a probe and suspended the erring resident engineer of the 126 MW Larji hydropower project being run by the state electricity board. A case of negligence has also been registered.
The distraught parents of the missing students are preparing to visit the mishap site to gather more information about the rescue opertaion being conducted there. Some anxious parents of mising engineering students gathered at VNR college near and pressed the management to make arrangements to take them to Himachal in a special flight.
Relatives of some students sat on protest at the college premises at Bachupalli on the city outskirts, alleging negligence in providing them information.
Telangana Home Minister Naini Narsimha Reddy and a police team have also reached the mishap site. Reddy left for Himachal Pradesh on the instructions from Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao.
"Telangana DGP Anurag Sharma and Cyberabad Police Commissioner CV Anand are in touch with top police officials of Himachal Pradesh," Assistant Commissioner of Police (Petbasheerabad Division) M Srinivasa Rao said.
"A group of 48 students studying IInd year Electronics and Instrumentation at a city-based private engineering college were on a study tour of HP when the tragedy struck them this evening," Srinivasa Rao said. The study tour had started from June 3, he added.
Srinivasa Rao spoke to one of the students of the group and quoted him as saying that "the incident occurred as a group of around 25 students, including seven girls, were taking photographs near the river bank when there was a sudden gush of water in which they were feared to have been washed away. We are in constant touch with some other students who had gone on the trip. I have been informed that it was a 10-day tour," the ACP said.
Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu also expressed shock and anguish over the incident. Naidu is also reported to have requested the Himachal Pradesh government to expedite relief and rescue operations.
Two teams of the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF), which include deep water divers, have reached the spot to help with rescue operations.
The NDRF teams, comprising 84 personnel, have been dispatched following a directive from Home Minister Rajnath Singh, a Home Ministry official said.
Meanwhile, Union HRD Minister Smriti Irani reached the accident spot in Himachal Pradesh`s Mandi district. On landing at the Bhuntar airport near Kullu, Irani assured all possible assistance to the state from the centre in the rescue operation.
"Spoke to Himachal Pradesh Education Minister (Shri) Bali regarding the tragic incident of 24 engineering students feared washed away near Mandi, also contacted the faculty member who was at the accident site. Was assured by tehsildar sadar Mandi that medical aid has been provided," Irani said in a tweet.
Irani assured the state Education Ministry, held by Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh, “of all assistance and support required from the Centre,” a statement released by the HRD ministry said.
The Himachal Pradesh authorities have issued helpline numbers through which latest information related to the rescue operation and the survivors can be obtained.
Helpline numbers:- 040-23202813, 01905-223374, 09440815887.