|Raghavendra Kolamu, 19, is among the students from Hyderabad who were touring the Kullu Valley in Himachal Pradesh when disaster struck. Water was suddenly released from a dam on the River Beas, sweeping away a group of 24 who had stopped to take pictures of the picturesque stop, near the state capital of Shimla. Here is this survivor's account of the horrific tragedy.
We were on our way to Manali. We were 48 students, three faculty members and a child of one of the faculty members. We decided to stop by at this spot for a short break.
There was a river with just about a foot of water. There were no boards or notices etc warning us of any potential danger in the area or advising us not to enter the river.
( Strong Words From Court on Students Drowning: 10 Developments )
We were sitting on rocks in the river, taking photos, having a good time. After a few minutes, I returned to the shore. Just then I heard a loud noise and saw water gushing. It was 6:30 pm. ( 'One Second We Were Taking Pictures, Then it Was All Over' )
Those of us who were at the shore saw our friends being swept away. It was all over in 30-40 seconds. The huge rock some of them had been standing on was gone...we were all stunned.
My friends were begging for help..they were waving and screaming - "Help, help" - but we couldn't do anything. We ran along the water on the road - up to 3-4 km - but there was no sign of them. They were gone.
It was the force of the water - not the depth.
There were no life jackets, boats to be found anywhere in the area. Had there been life jackets, we could worn them, gone into the water and saved some lives. Seeing our friends drown before our eyes was too painful. We'll never forget this. Half my class is wiped out. They all had dreams - Aishwarya - wanted to be an aeronautical engineer. Vishnu wanted to be a badminton player..another friend wanted to be a singer.
My friend and I managed to save our professor and a friend. They were about four feet from the shore, so we pulled them to safety. But some of my friends were swept away trying to save the girls who were trapped in the water. The locals gave us some ropes and wooden sticks but that wasn't good enough. We were helpless. One of our faculty members started shivering and said that he was feeling helpless.
We phoned the police..and with the help of locals told them where we were. They arrived after an hour at 7:30 pm. They told us to phone our family members to let them know we were safe. We used their phones and made calls. (Help Came Hours Later, Say Student Survivors of Beas River Tragedy)
They told us that just two days ago, two people had drowned at the same spot . They said "Don't you have the common sense to not go into the water?" But how would we have known? We were tourists. We just wanted to save our friends and they were blaming us.
The rescue teams arrived after 9:30 pm; they said they were stuck in traffic, so they had to walk and get rides from bikers.
I wish it was just a dream. Images of my friends pleading for help - can't be erased. I just can't stop thinking about them.