Shimla: Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh has ordered a probe in which at least 24 students, including six girls of an engineering college in Hyderabad, were reported missing after strong currents in the Beas river in Pradesh's Mandi district washed them away Sunday evening.
The chief minister discussed the ongoing rescue operation with Chief Secretary P. Mitra and Director General of Police Sanjay Kumar, a government spokesperson told IANS.
He said the chief minister ordered the suspension of erring resident engineer of the 126 MW Larji hydropower project being run by the state electricity board and registration of a case of negligence.
More than 60 students and faculty members from V.N.R. Vignana Jyothi Institute of Engineering and Technology were on an excursion to the picturesque tourist resort of Manali. Some of them were getting themselves photographed on the banks of the river in Thalaut area near the Hanogi Mata temple when they were washed away as the flow in the river suddenly increased, Deputy Commissioner Devesh Kumar told IANS.
The chief minister also directed the Power Minister Sujan Singh Pathania to visit the spot to oversee the rescue operation.
The river was suddenly in spate after the release of water from a nearby hydropower project, authorities said.
A rescue operation was carried out but no body has yet been fished out. The incident occurred around 7 p.m.
Additional District Magistrate Pankaj Rai said the rescue operation was stopped due to darkness.
"The chances of survival are bleak as the current in the river is very strong. The rescue operation will begin early (Monday) morning," he added.
Official sources said the divers from the Bhakra Beas Management Board have been summoned for the search operation.