Mandi (Himachal Pradesh), June 18 :
One more body of a Hyderabad engineering college student was traced Wednesday in the Beas river, taking the total bodies recovered to nine.
A total of 15 students and a tour operator are still missing.
Rescue workers said the latest victim has been identified as P. Venkata Durga Tarun whose swollen body surfaced from the river bed.
“The body, which was swollen, surfaced near the Pandoh dam, some 12 km downstream from the accident spot,” Jaideep Singh, commanding officer of the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF), told IANS.
“We are expecting that more bodies, which are in the process of getting bloated, would automatically start surfacing in the water in the next two or three days,” he said.
He added that one more body was recovered Wednesday, but it was of a local.
A massive search operation continued for the 10th day to locate the remaining 15 of the 24 students and a tour operator, swept away June 8 after water was released into the river without a warning from a nearby hydropower project, officials said.
The students were from the V.N.R. Vignana Jyothi Institute of Engineering and Technology and they were on an excursion to Manali.
Anguished over the status report filed by the state relating to the incident, the Himachal Pradesh High Court June 16 asked the divisional commissioner to personally appear in court.
Directing Divisional Commissioner Onkar Sharma to conclude the probe and submit his inquiry report in court by June 19, a division bench comprising acting Chief Justice Mansoor Ahmad Mir and Justice Tarlok Singh Chauhan said it was not satisfied with the status report.
“The status report does disclose the steps taken by the state to trace the bodies and also tries to explain the cause of accident, but it leads nowhere,” the bench said.
Impleading the V.N.R. Vignana Jyothi Institute of Engineering and Technology in Hyderabad as respondent in the case, the court also directed the Himachal Pradesh State Electricity Board Ltd. managing director, the superintending engineer (generation) and the resident engineer of Largi hydropower project, whose water was released in the river without warning, to remain present in court June 19, the next date of hearing.
It also asked them to file a detailed report as to how they are manning the barrage and dam and what is the mechanism and plan which they are following before discharge of water.
Taking serious note of the accident, the court June 9 said it was not only a case of callousness but also grave negligence.
“It’s a sad tale by reason of the fact that sheer fun of the young students turned out to be fatal as a consequence of utter and callous negligence of the power project authorities,” Justice Chauhan said.
In the status report, the government said the cause of incident appeared to be sudden increased discharge of water into the river from the Largi hydropower barrage.
This apparently resulted in substantial increase in water flow in the river, which led to washing away of students.
However, the exact cause will be known from the inquiry ordered into the incident, said the government.