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Four die as ambulance washed away while crossing overflowing river in Jharkhand

The vehicle is yet to be located, the police said. This has taken the toll up to 11 in the heavy downpour that has wreaked havoc in the state; mostly in its central and southern parts.

Written by Prashant Pandey | Ranchi |
Updated: July 27, 2017 4:21:32 am

Four members of a family were washed away in a government ambulance that got stuck on a bridge while crossing a river in spate in Lohardaga district in the early hours of Wednesday. The vehicle is yet to be located, the police said. This has taken the toll up to 11 in the heavy downpour that has wreaked havoc in the state; mostly in its central and southern parts. The meteorological department has predicted movement of the low pressure area to Daltonganj and easing out of the situation as it moves to Chhattisgarh, and adjoining areas of Bihar.

From a deficit of nearly 50 per cent in several districts, the downpour in the last four days has led to an overall rainfall that is 19 per cent above normal. The other deaths have been reported from Ranchi (4), Ramgarh (2) and Bokaro (1).

According to the police, family of one Gopal Das, in his 50s, a resident of Daltonganj in Palamu district, was travelling in a government ambulance to Ranchi. Das, a school teacher, was accompanied by his wife, Shanti Devi (50), daughter Asha Priya (18), son Kaushal Kishore (28) and Rakesh Kumar, Das’ son-in-law.

“Das had suffered a brain attack leading to paralysis. They were referred to Ranchi for better treatment. When they reached Sithoya Bridge in Senha police station area around 2.30 a.m., the water of River Koel had begun flowing above the Bridge. The driver was reluctant but the family insisted. As he drove ahead, the vehicle got stuck. Only the son-in-law and the driver could come out, while the ambulance got washed away in the heavy current,” said a police officer.

Lohardaga Superintendent of Police Karthik S said: “From initial investigation, it has come to light that the driver did not want to cross the Bridge as lot of water was flowing above it. However, Das’ wife insisted saying, if they could cross it, they would be able to reach Ranchi in time for treatment. The ambulance got stuck in the middle of the Bridge. The driver came out on the pretext that he would try and get somebody to push it. However, he did not go back to the vehicle.”

The SP further added: “A police constable deployed in Ranchi was on his way to duty when he spotted and alerted the police. We reached there within 15 minutes. The son-in-law was rescued. However, the other family members got washed away. One of the problems was that the family was not in a position to leave Das in the vehicle and come out. We are yet to locate the vehicle.”

Asked whether any policemen or homeguard was deputed at the Bridge to ensure that traffic movement was stopped, Karthik said: “Last evening, the Bridge was surveyed and it was decided that men would be deployed from today morning, as water was flowing well below the Bridge. However, the situation changed quickly and the incident occurred.”

Incidentally, on Tuesday evening, Chief Secretary Rajbala Verma had held review meetings and told the administration of all the districts to ensure that homeguards should be deployed on Bridges and small culverts to keep an eye on traffic movement and stop it, depending on the motorability. Dozens of small bridges, culverts and diversions have either been damaged or washed away in the heavy rains in the last four days.

Meanwhile, Swarnrekha and Damodar continued to rise above danger mark, while Kharkai River in Jamshedpur has shown signs of receding.

Jharkhand Chief Minister Raghubar Das has announced a compensation of Rs 4 lakh to the next of the kin of the victims. Further, compensation from Rs 60,000 to Rs 2 lakh would be given to those sustaining injuries, making them physically challenged. Besides, medical expenses ranging between Rs 4,300 to Rs 12,700 would be borne out by the government. Around Rs 1 lakh for the damaged houses will also be given. Compensation for loss of cattle will also be provided. Chief Secretary Rajbala Verma held a review meeting and directed the Deputy Commissioners to ensure these benefits were extended at the earliest as the funds were already lying with them.

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