Nine bodies have been recovered from Savitri river so far during search operations launched after two buses and some private vehicles got swept away following collapse of a British-era bridge on Tuesday night. The Maharshtra government today ordered a judicial probe into the mishap and announced the kin of the deceased staff members of two state-run buses would either be given job or compensation of Rs 10 lakh each.
Among the bodies recovered so far are those of two women passengers travelling in a Tavera and of a driver and a conductor of the buses. The incident occurred when two buses, with 22 people on board, and some other vehicles fell into the swollen river after the bridge, located on Mumbai-Goa Highway near Mahad, about 170 km from Mumbai, caved in due to heavy rains.
Satish Bagal, Resident District Collector of Raigad said, “So far, nine bodies have been recovered – three women and six men. One of the victims have been identified as a bus driver, while another a bus conductor.” Shrikant Kamble (53) was at the wheel of Jaigad-Mumbai bus, Bagal said adding, “His body was found at 7 am at far away Anjarle in Ratnagiri district, which is around 100 km from here. The body was handed over to his relatives by Dapoli police after post-mortem.”
The body of Rajapur-Borivali bus conductor, Prabhakar Baburao Shinde, was found at Kemburli near Mahad, he added.
“The bodies of two women – Shevanti Mirgal and Sneha Baikar – who were travelling in Tavera car were recovered from Harihareshwar in Raigad district and at Rajewadi near Mahad respectively,” the officer said. The body of the third woman, Ranjana Vaje, was recovered from Kemburli near Mahad.
Four other bodies – those of Pandurang Wagh, 22-year-old Avesh Chougule, Prashant Mane and Gangaram Kadam, were also recovered from varying distance from the spot of the accident.
Earlier this morning, a 300-kg magnet was lowered in the waters with the help of a crane to trace the missing buses.
“Although no vehicles have been traced so far, efforts to find them are still on,” Disaster Management Cell in-charge, Raigad district, Sagar Pathak said. About 20 boats with nearly 160 personnel of Coast Guard, NDRF, and Navy, apart from local fishermen and rafters, are at the work to find the remains of the two buses and other vehicles, which are also suspected to have been swept away. The local administration has set up a help centre for the kin of the victims.
In the state Assembly, Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis announced a judicial probe into the bridge collapse. Talking to reporters at Vidhan Bhavan in Mumbai, state Transport Minister Diwakar Raote announced the government would either provide a job to the next kin of the deceased staff of two MSRTC buses that were washed away or give a compensation of Rs 10 lakh each.
While replying to a discussion in the Assembly, Fadnavis said, “A judicial inquiry will be conducted.” He said directives have been issued to conduct structural audit of old bridges.
In 2013, the then Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan and then deputy CM had received complaints about the dilapidated bridge, Fadnavis pointed out. Leader of Opposition in Assembly Radhakrishna Vikhe Patil said the government should expand the scope of search operation.
A body was found 100 km from the accident site. This shows that there’s a need to expand scope of search operations, he said.
The government machinery showed negligence which led to the Mahad tragedy, Vikhe Patil alleged. He demanded the PWD minister should own up responsibility and a judicial inquiry conducted into the incident.
NCP MLA Ajit Pawar said a Sena legislator had a year ago, through a query in the Assembly, spoken of fears about a tragedy waiting to happen due to the dilapidated state of the British-era bridge.
While replying to the query, PWD Minister Chandrakant Patil had said the bridge was technically sound, Pawar said. Chandrakant Patil was at fault, he alleged.
After the incident, Fadnavis had conducted an aerial survey of the area yesterday and announced the government will carry out a safety audit of all old bridges in the state.