Rescuers on Monday 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 on Sunday evening when the discharge of water in the river suddenly increased because of the release of water from the reservoir of 126 MW Larji hydropower project.
Teams of Sashastra Seema Bal, assisted by the 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 the control room at Mandi said.
Officials fear that the chances of survival of the missing students is 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 National Disaster Response Force teams and divers from Bhakra Beas Management Board have also reached the spot," the officials said.
Taking serious note of the matter, the chief minister has ordered a magisterial inquiry by the 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 riverbed. But anyway I do not want to blame anybody."
On suggestions that there was no warning, the Himachal CM 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 Human Resource Development 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."
In Hyderabad, anxious parents and relatives rushed to the private engineering college at Bachupally seeking information about their dear ones.
The parents and relatives complained that they did not receive any information regarding the incident from the college management.
A group of 48 students studying second year electronics and instrumentation at a city-based private engineering college were on a study tour of HP when the tragedy struck.
Image: The group of engineering students from Hyderabad that went on a trip to Himachal Pradesh. Photograph: @Aashish_News/Twitter