By : Mohan Verma
Rescue workers yesterday fished out five bodies from Himachal Pradesh’s Mandi district while 20 others are still missing as they were washed away in the Beas river, when the flood gates of upstream Larji dam were let off without giving warning, an official said.
Additional Deputy Commissioner Pankaj Rai told media that death toll in the mishap rose to five. Union HRD minister Samriti Irani also visited dam site where they were drown.
Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh reached the accident spot, some 200 km from state capital Shimla, to oversee the rescue operation.
At least 24 students, including six girls, of the V.N.R. Vignana Jyothi Institute of Engineering and Technology in Hyderabad were reported missing after strong currents in the mighty Beas river which washed them away. Their chances of survival are bleak, officials said.
More than 60 students and faculty members were on an excursion to the picturesque tourist resort of Manali. Some of them were getting themselves photographed on the banks of the river in Thalaut area near the Hanogi Mata temple when they were reportedly washed away as the flow in the river suddenly increased.
The river was suddenly in spate with the release of water from a nearby hydro-power project.
The chief minister has ordered a probe into the release of water by project authorities without a warning, a government spokesperson said.
He has ordered the suspension of erring resident engineer of the 126 MW Larji hydro-power project being run by the state electricity board. A case of negligence has been registered.
Mr. Rai said one of the bodies was recovered from Pandoh dam, some 15 km downstream from the accident spot, whose floodgates were closed after the accident.
A team of the National Disaster Response Fund (NDRF), headed by commandant Jaideep Singh, was likely to reach the accident spot by 12 noon yesterday, official sources said.
The NDRF team comprising of 72 people were dispatched from Delhi.