Agencies engaged in the search for bodies after the bridge collapse in Mahad are exploring the possibility that the missing vehicles may have been covered under the silt continuously deposited downstream by the Savitri river.
Raigad district officials, the Navy, the Coast Guard and the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) held a meeting on Sunday with local residents to devise new strategies for the search.
“Local fishermen and sand dredgers have informed us that the a large quantity of silt flows downstream each year and tonnes of it is dredged in the summer. Fresh layers of silt, however, continue to be added on to the riverbed,” said Anupam Shrivastav, Commandant, 5th Battalion, NDRF.
Search teams were also informed on Sunday of a bus that had fallen into the river from the bridge last year, and was recovered in a vertical position much later.
“The bus nosedived into the river at the same spot. It was found completely covered with silt, in the same position as it had fallen,” Shrivastav said.
Search teams believe that if the two state transport buses and a Chevrolet Tavera car, missing since Tuesday, have met a similar fate, they will not show up on Echo Sound Sensors, which use a camera to relay images of the base of a water body.
After three sensors were given to the teams on Saturday by cabinet minister Ekanth Shinde, three more were procured by the district administration on Sunday.
The NDRF plans to investigate ditches filled with silt near the site of the incident for signs of the vehicles. “On Monday, we will involve sand dredgers in our efforts and use extendable iron pipes to poke the deposits of silt. The pipes can be extended up to 40 feet,” Shrivastav said.
There was respite from the incessant rainfall on Sunday, with Mahad recording a comparatively low 37 mm rain, down from the three-figure measurements all week. There was, however, no change in the current of the river, which continues to prevent searches in the centre of the river.
Meanwhile, bodies of Mumbai residents Jayesh Bane and Avinash Malap were recovered from the river on Sunday. In the afternoon, the body of Bane (36) was found washed up at a river bank at Ovale village in Mahad. Bane was travelling in the Rajapur-Borivli bus. Twenty-six bodies have been recovered so far.
The Mahad Tehsildar’s office said that later in the afternoon, search teams found the body of 45-year-old Malap near Vahur village in Mahad. A resident of Vile Parle, Malap was a passenger on the Rajapur-Mumbai bus.