Twenty four students from an engineering college in Hyderabad have been washed away in the Beas River at Thalaut near Mandi in Himachal Pradesh after authorities of Larji hydelpower project opened the floodgates of the project’s dam. Six girls are among missing.

As per the reports, the power project’s floodgates were opened around 6.30 pm and, minutes later, the students were washed away. It’s learned that the project authority hadn’t follow the right protocol on use of hooters and other warning signals on the release of the water from the hydel project.

A large group of students, including staff, of Vigyan Jyothi Institute of Engineering and Technology, Bachuapalli of Hyderabad, were on their way to Manali and had gone down to the river to bathe and take photographs.

Surviving students, while narrating their horror tale, stated that the river water suddenly started surging and few of them could manage to run to safety, however, as many as dozen of them, including a faculty member could not reach to safety and swept away in the surging water of the river.

Rescue team, though pressed into action immediately, but strong river currents, non-availability of searchlights and divers hampered the operations. So far, rescue team has recovered five bodies of students from the river.

Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh has promised action against officials of the Larji project and has ordered a probe and also ordered the suspension of erring resident engineer of the 126MW Larji hydropower project being run by the state electricity board.

The Himachal Pradesh government has set up a round-the-clock helpline (01905-223374) at the superintendent of police’s office in Mandi town.

Newly appointed Chief Minister K Chandrasekhara Rao has sent officials to Manali to coordinate rescue and relief efforts.