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Hi-tech marine devices fail to trace students’ bodies in Beas

8 bodies recovered, 17 still missing

Telangana Home minister Naini Narsimha Reddy watches the search operation at Pandoh Dam in Mandi on Sunday. (Lalit Kumar) Telangana Home minister Naini Narsimha Reddy watches the search operation at Pandoh Dam in Mandi on Sunday. (Lalit Kumar)

The agencies involved in search operation in Beas river on Sunday used world’s advance marine technology side-scan sonars and LIDAR — a Rs 10 crore remote sensing device — without any success in tracing the bodies of missing engineering students from Hyderabad.

So far, only eight bodies have been recovered from the river. The bodies of remaining 16 students and a tour operator remained elusive even as the search operation entered eighth day.

The side-scan sonars, usually used in the sea for conducting surveys and sampling of the under-water surface by Navy and other agencies, were deployed for the first time in the country in a search operation. Beside the hi-tech sonars, NDRF also used LIDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) — a remote sensing technology used in hydrological surveys for measuring distance by illuminating a target with a laser and analysing the reflected light.

The Sunday operation started at around 7 am under supervision of M Subramanian, a senior Navy commander, whose team of marine experts and divers first installed the side-scan sonars on a boat and then carried an extensive search of the Pandoh dam, besides Beas river. Rafts with NDRF, ITBP and Army divers were kept stand by for the search on basis of data collected with computer-backed system.

“Side-scan sonar uses sound waves to find and identify objects in the water. It transmits sound energy and analyses the return signal (echo) that bounces back from the other objects under the water. But, if the object or the body is buried under sand and silt — which is the case in Pandoh — the system has its limitations,” the Navy commander said.

Mandi Deputy Commissioner Devesh Kumar, while talking to The Indian Express, said, “I had some expectations from the two new devices to at least provide clues about the location of the bodies. We are really running out of options as both manual as well as technological innovations have not helped. Only thing left is to wait for a few more days if the bodies come up on the water surface as a natural process. Parents are more or less convinced on this suggestion.”

On Saturday, a three-km long stretch of Beas river was drained dry to enable nearly 500 personnel of NDRF, Navy divers, Army, SSB and a team of Andhra Pradesh divers to search the missing bodies close to the site of the tragedy at Thalout.

Telangana Minister for Home Naini Narsimha Rao, who is camping at the site, admitted that the parents are not in favour of flushing out of water from Pandoh dam for the search as such an exercise will mutilate the bodies.

Last Sunday, 24 students from a private college in Hyderabad and a co-tour operator Parahlad were washed away when Larji project authorities opened the flood gates of the dam without warning.

Heartbroken, parents of some victims to return home

Parents of some of the missing engineering students, washed away in flash flood in Beas eight days ago, have decided to return home with a heavy heart after yet another disappointing day in the ongoing search operation.

However, a few have decided to stay in Mandi and wait for any news about their missing children.

“We believe there has to be a closure to the tragedy. May their soul rest in peace in the holy Beas waters,” said B V Subarao, father of a missing engineering student, as Mandi Deputy Commissioner Devesh Kumar briefed bereaved family members about the search operation.

Subarao, a superintending engineer with the Andhra Pradesh government, was the first to oppose the suggestion from some parents to flush out Pandoh dam by opening its sluice gates and dry up the dam area for search. “It will add to our miseries as bodies will get damaged and crushed by high velocity water once the gates are thrown open.We do not want to see this. Instead, we will like to see bodies come up on the water surface in due course. Normally, it takes 10 to 11 days for bodies to float on water,” he said quoting some locals .

The DC assured that the search operation will continue.
Telangana Home minister Naini Narsimha Reddy, who is camping in Mandi, will also stay for one or two days with parents, who have decided to stay back.  (ENS)

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