New Delhi: Young Ravi Kumar says he saw his friends being washed away by the strong current of the swift Beas river in Himachal Pradesh on Sunday evening but couldn't call out. 24 engineering students from Hyderabad are feared drowned, five bodies have been recovered.
"I tried to alert them, but couldn't... my voice was stuck in my throat," says Ravi, recounting how he tried to "pull five or six of them to the side."
His friends, he says, too saw the water level in the river rise, but, "in a span of five-six seconds, it rose five or six feet and in front of my eyes they lost their footing and were drowned."
Ravi Kumar was part of a 46-member group from the VNR Vignana Jyothi Institute of Engineering and Technology that left Hyderabad on June 3 after semester exams.
They were headed from state capital Shimla to the resort town of Manali on Sunday, when they stopped at Thalot, about 40 km from Mandi.
Some of them got off the bus to take photographs at the edge of the river at around 7:30 pm, when water was released from a hydroelectric power plant further upstream. The sudden rise of water washed them away.
Among those reported missing since Sunday are 18 boys and six girls, aged between 20-21. Five bodies were recovered this morning in a massive search and rescue operation.
The group's tour manager and faculty member, identified as Kiran, is also missing.
Rescue workers used torches in the dark to try and find the missing students in the picturesque Kullu Valley, some 200 kilometres north of Shimla.