Friday, 2 August 2013

Day after Punjab bus tragedy, relatives look for bodies

A day after at least 27 people were feared drowned when a Delhi-Amristar bus crashed into the Bhakra Main Line (BML) canal near Sirhind in Punjab's Fatehgarh Sahib district, many people spent hours driving along the banks looking for clues about their missing relatives. Divers managed to fish out two more bodies on Thursday, taking the count to four, but refused to continue with the search operations after 1pm, alleging non-payment.

About half-a-dozen people also waited on the canal banks about 2km downstream from where the Punjab Bus Stand Management Company Limited vehicle had plunged into the waters.

Among them was Harjinder Singh looking for the body of his brother Surinder Singh, the driver of the ill-fated bus. "Lok taan kehnde ne hun Khanauri jaake hi milu (People are saying now the body will be found at Khanauri only)," Harjinder said. He was referring to his conversation with villages, who told him to look for Surinder's body near Khanauri headworks, about 70km from the mishap spot.

The kin of the dead and the missing also tried to get some clues from the 10 bags police had recovered from the bus on Wednesday.

"We had reached here last night," Harjinder said. "Police had told us to wait till they located any body in the main canal or its branches. I don't know where and for how long I should wait. Police told us to see the bags. But there is no point since we know Surinder was driving the bus."

Hargobind, a resident of Etah district of Uttar Pradesh, said: "My brother-in-law Yashpal, a resident of Aligarh, is missing. I came here after seeing the news on TV. I couldn't find Yashpal's bag among those recovered from the bus. What brought me here was the possibility that I could find some of his belongings." He said Yashpal ran a small business of supplying henna in Punjab.

The family members of the bus conductor, Raman Kumar, were also there. "We had no luck in finding Raman's body here," said his uncle Dalwinder Bhalla. "Hoping the bodies will ultimately find their way to the cross-regulators at Khanauri, some of our relatives have gone there."

The rescue operations ground to a halt in the afternoon when the team of about 15 divers refused to fish out the bodies from the Bhakra canal and its tributaries because they had not been paid.

"Our team of 15 divers has refused to conduct searches," said Ashu Khan, leader of the divers' team. "We stopped the work at 1pm today. The authorities are not paying us despite repeated our demands since yesterday. We can't continue the search operations by putting our lives in danger, that too without payment."

The divers had been roped in by the Fatehgarh Sahib administration. They conducted searches from Saundha to Khanauri in Sangrur district.

Khan alleged the administration was not serious about the rescue work. "So far nobody from the authorities has requested us to resume the search operations," he said. Khan also said the water current was very strong and the chances of finding any body in the area seemed bleak. "We can only find those bodies here that might have got stuck in any of the floodgates," he said.

Police said six of the people on board the bus, including the conductor and driver, had been identified and their relatives informed about the accident.

Friday 2 August 2013


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