Rains and fog could not dampen the spirit of rescue personnel engaged in recovery of bodies in the Poladpur bus accident which claimed 33 lives, a senior district administration official said on Monday.
"The rescue personnel did not rest till all the bodies were recovered from the 800-feet deep gorge where the bus fell on Sunday," Raigad district collector Dr Vijay Suryawanshi said.
The accident site, near Poladpur in Raigad district, is around 180 km from Mumbai. All the bus passengers were from the Balasaheb Sawant Konkan Krishi Vidyapeeth at Dapoli in Ratnagiri district.
"At one moment, all those in the bus were laughing and having fun and the next moment everything was over for them, except for the lone survivor," Suryawanshi told PTI.
"As soon as the news of the tragedy reached us, the district administration swung into action. We deployed 15 ambulances and five trekking groups and started the rescue operation," the collector said.
Suryawanshi, who reached the accident site soon after the tragedy, said, "On seeing the (accident) spot, it looked like a Herculean task because of the vertical valley drop of almost 800 feet."
"However, the trekking groups were trained to carry out a rescue operation in such harsh terrain," he said.
A team of 25 doctors was rushed to the Primary Health Centre at Poladpur and the National Disaster Response Force was requisitioned.
Till Saturday evening, 14 bodies were recovered by trekking groups.
"We also rushed generator vans to the spot as darkness was approaching, which would have hampered the rescue operation. The entire rescue stretch was lit up and the operation continued during the night," he said.
The remaining 16 bodies were recovered by Sunday morning by the NDRF, he said.
"Relatives of the deceased thronged in from Dapoli. We made their staying arrangements in hotels and provided them dinner. A help desk with police and revenue department officials was set up at Poladpur," he said.
A nayab tehsildar or mandal (bloc) official was assigned to relatives of each deceased to facilitate taking possession of the body. The post-mortem was expedited and bodies handed over along with papers in maximum 20 minutes, he said.
The district administration requisitioned 35 ambulances to enable relatives of each victim to carry the body to their native place. Tehsildars and sub divisional officers were called from neighbouring sub divisions to assist in rescue operation, he said.
"We had kept all necessary equipment ready before the NDRF team reached the spot at 7 pm on Sunday. As a result, there was no time loss for want of equipment or manpower.
"The rescue operation continued throughout the night without halt for a minute. Rains or fog could not discourage the brave volunteers who worked tirelessly," Suryawanshi said.
Suryawanshi, who camped at the accident spot till all bodies were recovered after 24 hours of rescue operation, said relatives of the deceased expressed their gratitude towards the district administration for the prompt response.