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Himachal tragedy: Hunt on for missing students in Beas River

'Families argue that the search should be carried out deep. Collector and the administration people say it is not easy to carry deep search,' Telangan HM said.

Indian rescuers search the Beas River after dozens of students were swept away when a dam released a rush of water without warning at Pandoh. (Photo: AP) Indian rescuers search the Beas River after dozens of students were swept away when a dam released a rush of water without warning at Pandoh. (Photo: AP)

Rescuers on Tuesday made little headway in tracing 19 students of a Hyderabad-based engineering college and a tour guide who were washed away due to sudden discharge of water from the reservoir of Larji Hydropower Project.

Bodies of five students including three girls and a boy were recovered on Monday by the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) teams.

A team comprising 84 NDRF men and 10 divers carried out a search operation in turbulent Beas River from the accident spot Thalaut and Pandoh Dam, Jaideep Singh, Commanding Officer, NDRF said.

A dozen boats, local divers and rafters also assisted the NDRF teams in the rescue operations.

The volume of water in Pandoh Dam was very high but the flood gates cannot be opened as there is a threat of the bodies being washed away, officials said.

Devesh Kumar, District Magistrate, Mandi said, “A system of protocol is already available to the dam authorities but I am sure that some deficiencies must be there… I would say that adequate number of signboards are a necessity on the stretches” where the accident took place.

Telangana Home Minister Nayani Narasimha Reddy said the families feel that the search should be carried out “deep”.

“Families argue that the search should be carried out deep. Collector and the administration people say it is not easy to carry deep search,” Reddy said.

“Dam water was released without caution or siren.  Children got into the river when the water was less. The water increased suddenly and washed them away,” he said.

About 60 students and faculty members of the V.N.R. Vignana Jyothi Institute of Engineering and Technology in Hyderabad were on an excursion to Manali and 25 persons were washed away in flash floods following sudden release of water from reservoir of Larji hydropower project near Thalot on Sunday evening.

Himachal government has announced an immediate relief of  Rs 1.50 lakh to the next of kin of the engineering college students washed away.

“We have announced a compensation of Rs 1.50 lakh to next of kin of each victim and also made arrangement for sending the bodies of the victims and also provide all possible help to the affected families”, Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh told reporters.

The Chief Minister said that an inquiry by Divisional Commissioner, Mandi has already been ordered into the accident and all vulnerable points along river banks where power projects have constructed dams would be “fenced”. Sign boards with warning signals would also be displayed at these places.

The alarm systems would be made more effective and the people would be informed about the alarms so that they take necessary precautions and avoid taking risk, he added.

All the survivors and five bodies recovered by rescue teams were flown to Hyderabad by an Air India flight last night while families of some missing students who had flown to Kullu with Union Civil Aviation Minister Pusapati Ashok Gajapathi Raju have stayed back and are hoping for recovery of more bodies.

In Hyderabad, bodies of four students were brought by a special Army aircraft.

The 24 students of the VNR Vijyana Jyothi Institute of Engineering here, a part of the 48-member group on tour, who survived the tragedy were also flown in another special flight and landed at Shamshabad International airport in Hyderabad.

Bodies of A Vijetha, Lakshmi Gayathri, G Aishwarya and B Rambabu arrived in a special flight at Begumpet airport last night.

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