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Bodies of 5 Hyderabad students recovered in Himachal, 20 others missing

Shimla: Rescuers today fished out bodies of five Hyderabad-based engineering students, who were washed away in the swirling waters of Beas river along with 20 classmates whose fate is not known as Chief minister Virbhadra Singh ordered a magisterial inquiry and suspension of Resident Engineer of Larji hydropower project.

The Home Ministry has sought a report from the state on the incident in which 25 students, who were taking photographs on the bank of Beas, were washed away last evening when the discharge of water in the river suddenly increased due to release of water from the reservoir of 126 MW Larji hydropower project.

Teams of SSB, assisted by police, homeguard and local divers and rafters intensified search operations in the area from Thalout to Pandoh dam. Five bodies including that of three boys and two girls have been recovered, SSB officials at Control Room at Mandi said.

Officials fear that the chances of survival of the missing students are slim as the river current is strong and presence of silt and waste.

"The high discharge of water and shortage of boats is causing some problem but we have list of missing persons and hope to recover the bodies. Our jawans are moving in boats and strict vigil is being maintained along the banks of Beas and NDRF teams and divers from BBMB have also reached the spot," the officials said.

Taking serious note of the matter, the Chief Minister has ordered a magisterial inquiry by Divisional commissioner, Mandi, to fix responsibility for the tragedy and suggest measure to stop recurrence of such incidents.

The Chief Minister has also ordered suspension of the Resident Engineer and a case has been registered against the staff for negligence and not forewarning the people before releasing water from the dam.

Terming the incident as unfortunate, the Chief Minister said, "Students had come with teachers. I think the teachers should have taken precaution that the students did not go to the river bed. But anyway I do not want to blame anybody".

On suggestions that there was no warning, the Himachal Chief Minister said, "I object to the point that there was no warning. Even today water is very fast. If the gate is opened, the water level may go up by few inches."

Union HRD Minister Smriti Irani, who visited the accident spot, said, "I was told by locals that there is a primary and secondary school functioning very close to the accident site and locals are extremely concerned about the safety of the children...My only plea to the HP government is that the concern that has been expressed by locals should be addressed immediately".

Himachal sets up helpline
Himachal Pradesh today set up a helpline after 24 students were washed away in Beas river, an official said.

The round-the-clock helpline (01905-223374) has been commenced at the superintendent of police's office in Mandi town, a government spokesperson said.

Parents of missing students to fly to Himachal
Anxious parents of engineering students missing in Himachal Pradesh gathered at VNR college near Hyderabad Monday even as the management promised to take them in a special flight.

Relatives of some students sat on protest at the college premises at Bachupalli on the city outskirts, alleging negligence in providing them information.

The parents entered into heated arguments with the college officials, demanding immediate action to fly them to Himachal Pradesh.

"Why they (students) were taken to the river bed in the night hours? Did anyone inform us...were the parents told about this? They only collected Rs 15,000 from each student," Naik, father of a student Rambabu, who was part of the trip, said.

"I had spoken to my son on June 5 last. His exams had completed on June 2 and he said the college management was taking them for the tour. Whether it is study tour or a picnic trip...nothing was informed by the management," said Naik, who hails from Nalgonda district.

Meanwhile, 15 parents and relatives of students were taken to Delhi by an Air India flight. From Delhi, the parents will be taken to Chandigarh and subsequently to Kullu. The state government has already requisitioned the Defence Ministry for helicopter and aircraft for Chandigarh and thereafter to the mishap spot in Kullu.

The state government will bear all the expenditure for hiring the air services. Andhra Pradesh government said that state minister P Narayana, representative of AP government K Rammohan Rao along with some parents of the students had left for Chandigarh in a special flight from where they will proceed by road to the accident spot.

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