The bus that was washed away into the Bhairavbanki river at Fulkusma in Bankura’s Barikul while crossing a culvert on Thursday afternoon. Picture by Sujata Khan
Bankura, Sept. 6: The current of a swollen river pulled a bus with 60 people into the water when the vehicle was stuck in the middle of an inundated culvert in Bankura this afternoon.
The bodies of a boy and a man have been found from the waters of the Bhairavbanki river in Barikul. The river had swollen because of continuous rain in the area for the past three days as well as water that was released from the nearby Tara Seni barrage.
Ten persons are missing.
The private bus was travelling from Jhargram in West Midnapore to Burdwan, a distance of over 200km.
When the bus reached the cement culvert in Fulkusma village in Barikul, about 65km from Bankura town, at 1.45pm, the Bhairavbanki was already flowing over it.
Culverts over rivers generally have concave surfaces — slightly depressed in the middle section — so that they don’t offer resistance and break when water flows over them.
A rescued passenger, who often travels between Jhargram and Burdwan, said: “The bus started crossing the culvert slowly. The scene was not unusual to me as water flows over culverts here during the monsoon. But in the middle of the culvert, the gushing water made the vehicle swerve to one side and it fell into the river.”
Before the bus fell into the water, for 20 minutes it was stuck on the culvert because of a snag.
“The bus was moving slowly but it stopped in the middle of the culvert because of some problem. Around 20 of us tried to push the bus as water was flowing over the culvert dangerously but it tipped and fell into the river,” said Anil Mahato, a villager who rescued several passengers.
The bus broke the concrete stumps on the side of the 30ft-long culvert and fell into the river.
Villagers of Fulkusma and Mandalkali nearby who came to the rescue said the Bhairavbanki, which is tributary of the Kangsabati, is generally has no water throughout the year, except the monsoon, and children play football on its dry bed in summer.
The villagers tied ropes to the concrete poles of the culvert that were standing and the other end of the ropes to their waists and started dragging passengers to the banks. “We rescued around 40 people in an hour and after that people from the administration joined us,” Mahato said.
The bus, pushed by the current, got stuck at the river bank100meters away.
The district magistrate of Bankura Ghulam Ali Ansari said the 50 people who have been rescued “are under treatment at a medical camp on the spot. The bus is now empty. The water was not too deep so several people waded to the bank.”
Ansari said the bodies have been identified as those of Jit Ghorai, 13, of Shilda and Somenath Dutta, 28, of Bankura. “We are worried about the children and women passengers. A search is on,” he added.
The bus had left Jhargram around noon with nearly 60 passengers. “The bus is the only one that travels between Jhargram and Burdwan, so generally there is a rush to catch the bus. But as it was raining today, there were only 60 people, not 90-100 passengers as is generally the case,” said Mriganka Maity, the secretary of the West Midnapore Bus Owners’ Association.
Administration sources said no water was being released from the Tara Seni barrage about 2km from the spot for the rescue operation.
Chief minister Mamata Banerjee held a meeting with the disaster management officials at Writers’ Buildings in the afternoon. “A bus skidded and fell into the Bhairavbanki river. I got some information but it is not possible to get all information from the spot right now. The accident occurred somewhere between Raipur and Khatra. I have sent the police superintendent and the district magistrate to the spot. Our minister Shyamapada Mukherjee and other administrative officials have also been asked to rush to the spot,” Mamata said.