The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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5 few minutes ago, then none
- The beast cloaked in beauty

Bagmundi, July 30: 'I had just stepped into the water when a strong current threw me off balance' my friends got lost in the waters.'

That is the last memory Bappaditya Chatterjee has about his friends.

He shivered and stammered at the Bagmundi police station this morning.

'Around 5.15 pm (on Friday), we crossed the Daurikhal waterfall after a 15-km trek. An hour-long spell of shower had just ended. We were standing on a rock and the water level was increasing by the minute. So, we planned to return to the other side of the waterfall' but by then all the rocks behind us were under water,' said Kaushik Sarkhel, the other survivor of the five-member group, sitting on the police station's veranda.

The five, however, decided to take a chance and cross the torrent to make it to the small cave where they had decided to spend the night.

'We tied a bundle of rope around our waists. I told them to hold on to it firmly. We also held each other at the same time,' Bappaditya said.

'After I lost balance and fell into the water, I hardly had a chance to look around. I was swept away'. Suddenly, I felt a plant under the water and grabbed it. It helped me reach a big boulder.

'I regained my composure a few minutes later and looked at the rock where we all were a few minutes ago. There was no one in sight,' he added.

Kaushik had almost a similar story to tell. 'The moment Bappaditya lost balance, I fell with the rest. I stopped only after hitting a stone and somehow managed to climb to the bank on the western side of the Daurikhal. I sat behind a bush and could not understand what to do.'

Bappaditya sat on the giant boulder 'for 15 minutes to calm my nerves'.

'Once again, I looked at the rock on which we all stood. There was a rucksack stuck between boulders and, suddenly, a strong wave came and swept it away. I then started calling out Kaushik's name, but there was no response.'

Bappaditya had kept his cellphone in a plastic pouch. 'I switched it on and, thank God, it was working. I made the first call to my roommate, Suresh Nayek.'

A few minutes later, Bappaditya received a call from university registrar Rajat Banerjee. 'He assured me that I would be rescued soon.'

But that was the beginning of another problem. 'I started receiving calls from everyone. The charge in the battery was low and the phone stopped functioning. I was on the verge of tears with no food but only a packet of Hajmola left.

Around 9 pm, Kaushik managed to climb to the road along the bank. He said: 'I took off my trousers and shirt because they were creating trouble for me in combatting the current. As soon as I reached the road, I saw policemen coming towards me.'

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