Mandi (Himachal Pradesh): The water level in the Beas river was lowered Saturday morning for the first time to find the remaining 16 missing students and one tour operator who were washed away in strong current near here last week, rescue officials said. So far eight bodies have been recovered.
In a massive operation, over 550 rescue workers continued their search on the sixth day. Fifteen divers from Hyderabad also joined the search operation Saturday.
In the first four days of the operation, eight bodies were recovered, most of them either trapped under the rocks or buried in the silt in the riverbed within three-km radius of the accident spot Thalaut, located on the Chandigarh-Manali national highway-21, in Mandi district.
"The water level in the three-km river stretch near the accident spot was minimised for almost an hour in the morning by controlling inflow in it," Deputy Commissioner Devesh Kumar told IANS.
Jaideep Singh, commanding officer of the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF), said the focus of the search operation was to locate the bodies trapped under the boulders.
"Our jawans are trying to reach out each and every boulder," he added.
"Our divers are basically facing the problem of poor visibility. The river bed is full of mud and silt. There are also big boulders and rocks. It`s only through feeling that they are recognizing the objects lying beneath," National Disaster Management Authority vice-chairman M Shashidhar Reddy told IANS.
Over 50 divers of the NDRF, the Indian Army, the Indian Navy and the ITBP are involved in the search operation.
The tragedy occurred when a group of students from an engineering college in Hyderabad, on a trip to Manali, were swept away Sunday evening when water was released into the river without a warning from a nearby hydropower project.
Police have registered a case against the Larji hydropower project authorities for causing death by negligence and endangering life of people.
Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh has issued directions to all hydropower project authorities to follow necessary steps before releasing water which includes use of hooters and announcements on loudspeakers mounted on vehicles.