4 bodies found, 20 students from Hyderabad still missing in HP

NetIndian News Network

Shimla, June 9, 2014

Virbhadra Singh orders probe after students go missing
Search and rescue teams today found the bodies of four of the 24 students of an engineering college near Hyderabad who went missing and were feared drowned after water was suddenly released from the Larji hydro-electric project into the Beas river in Mandi district of Himachal Pradesh yesterday evening.
District officials in Mandi told NetIndian over the telephone that the search for the remaining missing 20 students had been suspended at nightfall and would be resumed at day-break tomorrow.
The students -- 18 boys and six girls -- were part of a  larger group of second year engineering students from the VNR Vignana College of Engineering and Technology near Hyderabad and were on a study tour in the area when the tragedy occurred.
The bodies of three girls and a boy were recovered this morning from the Pandoh dam, about 15 km downstream, and efforts were continuing to trace the others, they said.
A team from the Telangana government, led by state Home Minister Naini Narsimha Reddy and including police officials, was expected in Mandi later on Monday. The Director General of Police of Telangana and the Police Commissioner of Cyberabad were also in touch with senior police officials in Himachal Pradesh.
Various accounts suggested that the students were taking photographs and playing around on the rocks and in the shallow water when extra water was released from the dam suddenly around 7 pm yesterday.
According to officials, the dam authorities had issued the usual alerts and sounded sirens to downstream areas before releasing the water but the district administration has ordered an inquiry to establish the circumstances in which the mishap occurred.
People on the banks of the river alerted the students to the sudden surge in water levels, but all of them were swept away before they could move to safety, the officials said.
Emergency teams were rushed to the spot and searched for the missing students with help of searchlights late into the night.
At daybreak today, the authorities intensified the search and rescue efforts by deploying rafters and divers even as scores of people scoured the riverside on both sides. Officials of the adjoining Kullu district also joined the rescue efforts.
The incident occurred at Thalot, around 40 km from Mandi. The Larji dam is located around two km upstream from there.
An official press release here said Union Civil Aviation Minister Ashok Gajapathi Raju would oversee the rescue and relief efforts and help the families of the victims. Among other things, steps are being taken to fly the parents of the missing students to Manali.
Union Minister of Human Resources Development Smriti Irani expressed grave concern and shock over the incident. She assured Himachal Pradesh Minister of Education G S Bali of all assistance and support required from the Centre.
She also spoke to a member of the faculty of the college, who was accompanying the students on the study trip to Himachal Pradesh and was present  at the site of the mishap when it happened. The principal of the college has been assured of all cooperation to cope with the tragedy.
"Our prayers are with the families in this hour of need," she added.

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