Facing flak for the Beas tragedy, the Mandi district administration and the Larji hydel power project authorities have now put up separate sign boards on the Mandi-Thalout road, warning tourists and general public against venturing close to the river.
The decision comes in the wake of 25 people, including 24 students of a Hyderabad engineering institute, having been washed away in a flash flood caused by the sudden opening of the flood gates at the Larji hydel project dam, 2.7 kms upstream of accident site at Thalout. “It is hereby informed to the general public that venturing near the Beas beas is strictly prohibited as there are chances of increase in water level at any point of time resulting in any kind of mishap. It is strictly prohibited,” the boards read.
Himachal Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh had on Tuesday directed the Himachal Pradesh State Electricity Board (HPSEB) to revisit the Standard Operation Procedure (SOP) when water is released from dams. The chief minister had also ordered the construction of barbed wires on a three-kilometre stretch along the river from the Larji project dam. With Mandi deputy commissioner Divesh Kumar having acted on the chief minister’s orders by setting up the sign boards, his counterpart at Kullu, Rakesh Kanwar, said he has also ordered 100 such warning boards to be displayed along Kullu-Manali highway that is beside the Beas river. “I have also tried to ensure that no raft operator should start adventure activity in the Beas without having proper certificate and trained manpower as back up teams to avoid any mishap,” Kanwar said.
“I am happy that the state government and district magistrate Mandi have taken the action on one of our suggestions as the Beas tragedy can also be attributed to lack of information or warning,” said Telangana Home minister N Narsimha Reddy.
Wind, rain disrupt rescue efforts
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High velocity winds and rains disrupted the search operations at the Beas river on Wednesday afternoon forcing the ITBP, SSB, raft and divers to abandon their rescue efforts. “The weather was highly unfavourable in the afternoon and the operation had to be called off early as search teams found it risky to continue,” said Sundernagar sub-divisional magistrate H S Rana – who coordinated operations on Wednesday.
NDRF commandant Jaideep Singh admitted that it was frustrating for rescue personnel to make little progress but said efforts were hampered by tough terrain, muddy waters and silt. “The water is continuously flowing in the river. There is no scope of stopping the flow as melting of snow is bringing excess water. The Larji officials have to release the water,” he added.