In a first, NDRF has decided to deploy an unmanned aerial vehicle and Multibeam echosounders to trace the bodies of missing engineering students from Hyderabad, besides sending more divers to speed up the search operation in Beas river.
So far only eight bodies have been recovered — two on Thursday. Three bodies were of girl students. Twenty five people, including 24 engineering students, were washed away on Sunday evening in a flash flood caused by the sudden opening of the flood gates at the Larji hydel project dam in Mandi district. Seven Navy divers were flown to Mandi on Thursday from Goa, Kolkata and Patna to assist NDRF’s 39 divers.
M Shashidhar Reddy, vice-chairman National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA), who flew to Mandi on Thursday, said, “From tomorrow, the operation will go hi-tech as we propose to induct unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) and deploy Multibeam echosounders for over-water and underwater search. It will be for the first time that the NDRF will be carrying out such a operation. The river is filled with silt, the flow is fast and there are big boulders.” He said 15 more NDRF divers will join the search operation.
Mandi Deputy Commissioner Devesh Kumar said manpower has also been increased significantly on demand from the parents. “Today there are 509 personnel from different agencies, including police and private rafters, and divers engaged in the search operation. There are record 70 divers working to locate the missing bodies.”
The bodies fished out on Thursday were of T Upendra and Gonoor Arvind Kumar and they were later flown to Hyderabad. Officials of ITBP supervising the operation said the two bodies were recovered downstream of Hanogi Mata temple and they were stuck beneath a boulder.
As the Beas tragedy exposed ill-preparedness of the Himachal Pradesh government to tackle a post-disaster situation, the Andhra Pradesh and the Telangana governments have now apparently taken over the search operation for the bodies of engineering students from V N R Vignana Jyothi Institute of Engineering and Technology. The AP and the Telangana governments are assisting NDRF, SSB, ITBP, Navy and other agencies in the search operation even as Himachal Pradesh regime is facing ire of the parents of the victims for neither having resources, nor knowledge to carry out such an exercise.
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Telangana Home Minister Nayini Narsimha Reddy and a dedicated team of top IAS and IPS officers have been regularly visiting the spot ever since they arrived after the incident. AP Minister for Urban Development P Narayana, who reached here on Monday, returned on Thursday after reviewing the situation. Reddy has demanded that issue be raised with the Centre to scale-up the manpower for complete combing of 16-km long river stretch between site of the tragedy and Pandoh dam.