Search operations launched to trace the remains of the two buses and private vehicles swept away in Mahad have run into adverse weather conditions coupled with high currents in the Savitri river, a senior National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) official said. The NDRF joined other agencies including the Coastguard in relief operations soon after the tragedy struck on Tuesday night and has since then been scouring the swollen waters for vehicle remains and missing people.
“We are facing problems on three fronts. First the adverse weather conditions due to heavy rains, and then the extreme water current. Also, the water is so muddy that it has hindered the visibility to zero levels for our deep divers,” Anupam Srivastava, a commandant of the 5th battalion told PTI.
Srivastava said his team is not equipped with infra-red based technology that could help in locating objects in muddy water. Another obstacle they have to contend with is the presence of crocodiles in the water.
“The latest obstacle is that our team jawans have spotted few crocodiles in the waters which means extra caution is needed while venturing out. But definitely these are not going to dampen our commitment,” Srivastava said.
With his crew of 160 jawans, 12 deep divers and 13 boats, DIG of NDRF (South Zone) S P Selvan is personally monitoring operations on the site. Elaborating on his team’s efforts, Srivastava said, “One the first day, we lowered down a 150 kg hook as an anchor (into the river) but it could not stabilise at one place due to high currents. Then we got a 300-kg magnet from nearby MIDC but it too faced lot of resistance.”
“During the process, this magnet anchor got stuck to a heavy object and we guessed that it could be the one of the buses. But the crane present on the spot could not pull it out,” he said. “Next day we got a big size crane from Mumbai which also failed to pull that substance out from the river. When we discussed this issue with the local administration, then we were informed that it could be a water pipeline which supplies potable water to nearby 14 villages. Therefore, for the time being, we have deferred our plans to pull out the magnet anchor until we get a confirmation about this.”
He said the severity of the conditions at the rescue site could be gauged by the fact when anchors weighing 300 kg are not getting settled in the water due to the current, then how can divers go inside. Three more bodies were today recovered from the Savitri river taking the mishap toll to 17.