Raigad: Indian Navy divers on Saturday located wreckage of second of the two ill-fated State Transport buses which were washed away on August 02 when a bridge on raging Savitri river in Mahad collapsed due to floods.
The wreckage has been located around 400 metres away from the collapsed bridge site on the busy Mumbai-Goa Highway.
"Continuing search operations on Day 10 at Savitri River, the naval divers located one more wreckage assessed to be part of the second bus (Jaigad-Mumbai). Post recovery of the first bus on August 11, the search was continued downstream. The wreckage is 400 meters from the bridge in an area where strong currents are observed. The wreckage is completely submerged in around 5 meters depth," a defence spokesperson said.
"It is assessed that the wreckage is recoverable. NDRF teams are being informed and a crane for recovery of the wreckage is being requested," spokesperson Commander Rahul Sinha said in a statement here.
On Thursday, the wreckage of Rajapur-Borivali MSRTC bus was retrieved approximately 170 and 200 meters from the collapsed bridge.
After the Navy divers located the bus, braving strong currents and crocodiles in the river, NDRF teams were summoned to retrieve it.
The Indian Navy team comprising personnel specialising in diving was searching for the wreckage and survivors since the morning of August 4, braving high water current and crocodile hotbeds in the river.
The bridge collapse had also resulted in at least another four-five private vehicles being washed away in the heavy rains and floods, claiming an estimated 42 lives.
Billed as one of the worst road tragedies in the state on the seven-decade-old British-era bridge, rescuers have managed to recover only 26 bodies so far, some were found washed away over 100 km in the Arabian Sea, officials said.
A mega search operation on land, river, creek and in the Arabian Sea was launched with the Indian Navy, Indian Air Force, Indian Coast Guard, NDRF, Maharashtra Police and local fire-brigade, private adventure clubs and even the fisherfolk to trace out the victims of the multiple vehicles tragedy.
Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, Leader of Opposition Radhakrishna Vikhe-Patil and other Ministers and officials visited the site.
Later, Union Minister for Shipping Nitin Gadkari announced that a new bridge would be constructed on the spot within six months.
Meanwhile, anxious kin of the deceased who were camping at the rescue site have left the place.
Sanjay Patil, Additional SP of Raigad police said, "The local MIDC Mahad police has registered a case of accidental deaths of 26 people whose bodies have been recovered while a missing case has been registered for those whose bodies have not been found so far."
"Our investigation into the missing cases registered with us will go on up to two months and if their bodies are not found or recovered, then on the basis of accidental death reports, we will come to a conclusion that they too were part of the tragic incident and would be considered dead.”
"Thus they will be issued the necessary documents paving their way to claim the financial compensation announced by the state government," Patil told PTI.
NDRF's 5th battalion commandant Anupam Srivastava also said that his four teams were at work and doing their job to trace remains of the swept away vehicles and passengers.
"Till we don't get orders from the higher authorities, we are not going to call off the (search) operations," he said.
The State Cabinet, in this particular case, has already reduced the waiting period for granting compensation to next to the kin to two months (from seven years as per existing rules).
If the missing people are not traced within two months, the state will declare them dead and award solatium, PWD Minister Chandrakant Pati had said.
The Maharashtra State Road Development Corporation has announced a compensation of Rs 14 lakh each to the kin of deceased travelling in the ST buses and Rs 10 lakh each to the family of deceased in other vehicles involved in the tragedy.
(With Agency inputs)