22 survivors of Himachal Pradesh Tragedy returning to Hyderabad

22 survivors of Himachal Pradesh Tragedy returning to Hyderabad

The bodies of four of the 24 students swept away on Sunday in a sudden surge of water released from a dam in Himachal Pradesh, were flown back to Hyderabad last evening.

A plane carrying 22 students, who were part of the group tour, also returned to Hyderabad on a special flight arranged by the Andhra Pradesh government.

The students were all from an engineering college in Hyderabad. They were standing on the Beas river's edge on Sunday evening taking photographs when they were hit by a torrent of water. So far, the bodies of four girls and a boy have been recovered, while 20 students and one tour guide are still missing.

Yesterday, soldiers, police and other rescue workers were seen combing the banks of the river, while others in kayaks were paddling slowly downstream, checking around boulders. Divers, special forces of the Army and two helicopters have also been pressed into service.

Civil aviation minister and senior TDP leader Gajapathi Raju accompanied the families of students to Himachal Pradesh on Monday evening. Many of them have opted to stay back in the hope that the bodies of their kin will be recovered today.

A group of nearly 50 engineering students were travelling on buses to the tourist hill station of Manali when they stopped in the Kullu Valley, some 200 kilometres (130 miles) from state capital Shimla.

The surge of water occurred when a hydroelectric power project opened its floodgates, sending tonnes of water downstream, officials have said. "It was not an accident, it was negligence. There was no warning or safety measure there," said K Kavitha, a parliamentarian from the TRS, the party that governs Telangana.

Ravi Kumar, who survived the disaster, said, "The water level suddenly rose to five or six feet and the students who were close to the river were washed away." He said no help came from the district administration for hours, an allegation repeated by other students.

Angry locals say authorities had failed to issue a warning about the release of water from the dam. The additional district magistrate has, however, claimed that a siren went off before the dam water was released.

Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh has ordered an inquiry to fix responsibility for the tragedy. Two senior engineers in charge of the Lajri dam have been suspended for alleged negligence.

Himachal Pradesh and other Himalayan states including neighbouring Uttarakhand are home to a string of hydroelectric projects as India rushes to expand power generation to meet rising demand.
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