Mandi, Himachal Pradesh: The search operation to locate 16 missing students from Hyderabad and a tour operator was Monday temporarily hit by sudden increase in water level in the mighty Beas river here, officials said.
They, however, said the increased water level would help the high-tech echo sounder device to work effectively.
"There is sudden increase in rapid due to early morning (Monday) showers in the river's catchment area," Jaideep Singh, commanding officer of the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF), told IANS.
He said the side-scan sonar, which was deployed for the first time Sunday, would operate effectively with the increase in water level. The sonar captures pictures of the riverbed and will help locating the bodies.
Twenty-four students from the V.N.R. Vignana Jyothi Institute of Engineering and Technology, Hyderabad were washed away in the Beas river June 8. Eight bodies have been found so far.
Meanwhile, most of the parents and family members of the missing students, who were camping here for a week, returned to their home Sunday night.
Only four to five of them preferred to stay back, Telangana Home Minister Nayani Narasimha Reddy, who also returned to Hyderabad Monday, told IANS.
He said if any body was found the local administration would make arrangements to send it back to Hyderabad.
Telangana Transport Minister Mahender Reddy reached the accident site to oversee the search operation.
Over 550 rescue workers, comprising about 50 divers of the NDRF, the army, the navy and the Indo-Tibetan Border Police, are involved in the search operation, focusing on the 15-km-long downstream stretch of the river from the Larji hydropower project dam to the Pandoh dam.
The tragedy occurred when a group of students reached the river bed for a picture-postcard shoot with the gurgling river in the background. A sudden wall of water released into the river without warning from a nearby 126 MW Larji hydropower project swept them away.
The students were on an excursion to Manali.
Police have registered a case against the Larji hydropower project authorities for causing death by negligence and endangering the life of people.
State Industries Minister Mukesh Agnihotri, who visited the accident spot Sunday, directed the public works and forest departments to close all the link roads constructed to carry out illegal mining activities in the river within seven days.