Rescue operations employ Chetak helicopters after a bridge collapsed on Savitri river due to torrential rains in the Konkan region leaving at least two buses and several other vehicles missing near Mahad city on Wednesday.
The bridge, more than seven decades old and a critical link to the Mumbai-Goa national highway, crashed around 1 a.m. due to the flood waters rushing into the river.
Two state transport buses with 11 passengers each were missing and there was no contact with either their drivers or the passengers, Raigad Collector Sheetal Ugale said.
Since the Maharashtra State Road Transport Corporation buses — which started from Mumbai — did not arrive at their scheduled Mahad depot, Ugale appealed people to get in touch with the concerned authorities about their missing relatives.
Locals said that around five to six private vehicles were also missing and they were feared to be washed away in the floods.
A search operation have been initiated, Ugale said.
“The bridge was built during the British era. After discussion with the National Highways Authority, we have shifted traffic to the new parallel bridge nearby. We are trying to confirm reports of other missing vehicles,” Ugale said. Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis said while explaining the cause of the collapse, “High pressure caused due to flooding of river Savitri due to heavy rains in catchment of Mahabaleshwar led to bridge collapse. As of now we have reports of 2 state transport buses missing with 22 people onboard.”
“NDRF teams have reached and are carrying out search operations. A massive search is going on. PM Modi spoke to me this morning and assured all help from the Centre. All teams have been put together and they are trying their level best to locate the missing persons,” he added.
Sea king 42B and 42C all weather aircrafts were also deployed and an Indian Navy diving team was also launched.
Rehabilitation Minister Chandrakant Patil said helicopters would be deployed and the help of defence forces was taken to search the missing vehicles.
Two bodies have been recovered so far, said Raigad district collector, Sheetal Ugale.
Meanwhile, a 45-member National Disaster Response Force team reached Raigad from Pune to assist in the rescue operations.
Incessant rains continue to lash the coastal Konkan, northern and western Maharashtra since past five days.
(With IANS Inputs)