Mumbai: Nearly 72 hours after the 100-year-old bridge, on Savitri river in Mahad, collapsed, 22 bodies have been recovered so far. On Friday, efforts to trace the 20 other missing people continued. EIGHT more bodies of the victims were recovered by search teams on Friday morning.
"Till now, 22 bodies have been fished out from the river and operations are on to find the others," said deputy superintendent (Mahad) Pranjali Sonawane. She added that so far relentless search operations carried out by the navy, Coast Guard, NDRF and other private agencies were unsuccessful in tracing the two ST buses and the private vehicles, including a Tavera SUV and a Honda City, which were washed into the flood-hit river in Raigad district.
"A few broken body pieces of a fallen car and a bus were recovered by teams, but we have not been able to locate the entire vehicles so far. Operations will now resume at first light on Saturday with all teams combing the waters from Harihareshwar to the fallen bridge area," deputy commander of NDRF Pandit Ithape said.
On Friday, seven bodies — five men and two women — were pulled out. They were identified as Ajay Gurav (36), Vinita Pandit (38) and Bhumi Patekar (40), all residents of Kemburli village in Mahad, Santosh Gavtade (39) of Ambet village, Bhikhaji Waghdhare (41), a resident of Vave, and Suresh Sawant (42), a resident of Dadli hamlet in Mahad.
"Families of all passengers have arrived in Mahad and they are been extended all possible help. Hourly reports are being given to them," said Raigad deputy collector Satish Badal.
Of the total 22 deceased, three are women and 19 are men. The bodies were sent to the Government Rural Hospital in Mahad for identification and then handed over to relatives post the autopsy.
With the nearest distance a body was found at being 7km from the site and the farthest 130km away, search agencies are now carrying out multiple combing rounds by dropping hooks, extending 40-foot long nets and via the 'Fishfinder' device.
The latter is an instrument used by fishermen to locate fish underwater by detecting reflected pulses of sound energy, as in Sound Navigation And Ranging technique. "The device will help us find bodies inside the water and even the drowned vehicles," said local fisherman Dilip Ghare.
Ghare and his team of 20-plus kolis from the Malvan beach joined the search operation on Friday morning. He said the device displays measurements of reflected sound on a screen, allowing an operator to interpret information to locate schools of fish, underwater debris, and the bottom of the waterbody. "We use it during deep sea fishing. We hope it brings us the same success in Savitri river," Ghare added.
Ithape said, "The device will give us much needed eyes under the water. The strong current and the draft of the river is preventing the divers from getting near the accident spot."
There were reports of authorities contemplating using underwater drones in the search operation. "Oceanographers and marine biologists as well as security agencies have been using them… There are talks of introducing it, but the final decision will come from the state and navy," the officer said.