Raigad (Maharashtra), Aug 4:
Rescuers on Thursday recovered three bodies, including that of the driver of one of the two state transport buses washed away in the Savitri river in Raigad district after a bridge collapse on Wednesday, officials said.
Two other bodies were of women who may have been travelling on one of the two buses or in some other private vehicle.
The three bodies were found shortly after the search operations for the missing buses and about 22 passengers was resumed at daybreak by the Indian Coast Guard, Indian Navy, NDRF, police and the fire-brigade. Local fishermen also joined the search.
Heavy rains continued to hamper the rescue operations and Savitri river remained a raging cauldron 36 hours after it swept away the bridge, built during the colonial rule more than seven decades ago.
The body of driver S.S. Kamble was found in the shallow Arabian Sea waters near Anjarle beach, about 75 km from the tragedy site near Mahad. He was driving the Jaigad-Mumbai bus service of the Maharashtra State Road Transport Corporation (MSRTC).
The two women whose bodies were found have been identified as Sevanti Mirgal from Harihareshwar and Ranjana Vaze from Kemburli, both locations several kilometres downstream.
Since Wednesday, various agencies have been searching for the two missing buses and passengers by deploying at least five helicopters, Gemini boats, expert divers and scuba divers.
Local legislator Bharat Gogavale had informed reporters on Wednesday about the recovery of two unidentified bodies from a spot near the bridge collapse. Later the district authorities clarified they were from an unrelated incident.
Besides the two missing buses, attempts are on to locate five to six private vehicles that were reportedly washed away into the Arabian Sea, around 18 km from the bridge crash site.
The defence authorities have procured large magnets weighing around 300 kg for the underwater search in the muddy waters to detect and attract the metal vehicles.
Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, his ministers and Leader of Opposition Radhakrishna Vikhe-Patil airdashed to the tragedy site and met collector Sheetal Ugale and Superintendent of Police Suvez Haque to take stock of the situation.
The Jaigad-Mumbai service was driven by Kamble with V.K. Desai as conductor. The other ill-fated MSRTC bus was a Rajapur-Borivali (north Mumbai) service driven by E.S. Munde with P.B. Shirke as conductor.
Both bus services were based at Chiplun Bus Depot in Ratnagiri.