In a reminder of the 2014 Beas tragedy that claimed the lives of 24 students from Hyderabad, two Indian Air Force (IAF) personnel posted at the Pathankot airbase were washed away by sudden rise in Ravi’s water level in Chamba on Saturday evening.
The victims were identified as corporal Nitesh Mishra (26) from Meerut and corporal Shakti Singh (30) from Jaipur. Three other personnel had a close shave. Naval Pandey, Naveen Sharma and Gajender Singh were taken to Chamba government hospital. Their condition was reported to be stable.
The five were on a weekend holiday trip to Chamba and were clicking pictures on the river bank at the time of the incident, said Chamba Deputy Commissioner Sudesh Mokhta.
“Water of the river rose suddenly after discharge from upstream Chamera-II project. While three men managed to jump back and save themselves, two others became the unfortunate victims. The incident happened around 6.30 pm and due to darkness, the search operation remained unsuccessful. It was only today that the bodies were fished out in an operation that involved IAF personnel and the Army, besides the police and home guards,” he said.
A magisterial probe has been ordered to ascertain if the NHPC authorities, which man the Chamera-II project, followed the guidelines laid down by the high court for the discharge of water, said Mokhta.
Apart from warning boards along the river bank, hooters and sirens are set off by the authorities to alert people at the time of discharge of water. “Maybe the IAF personnel ignored the alert or it just went unnoticed. The probe will find out. A report has been sought from ADM (Chamba) Shubkaran in the next 15 days,” said Mokhta.
IAF authorities, who rushed to Chamba immediately after the incident, have already informed the families. The postmortem was performed Sunday.
After the Beas tragedy, the state government had taken measures to display warning signals/hoardings all along the highways to warn tourists against venturing close to the spots where water could rise suddenly. Twenty-four students of a Hyderabad engineering college were washed away on June 8, 2014, following sudden discharge of water from Larji hydel project dam in Mandi district. The high court later intervened to order registration of FIRs in the case.