The culvert across the Bhairavbanki river, where the accident took place. (Samir Mondal)
Bankura, Sept. 7: The toll in the Bankura bus tragedy rose to eight today with the recovery of six more bodies from the Bhairavbanki river. The bus driver has been arrested for rash and negligent driving.
Search for more bodies by a disaster management team, divers from Asansol, police and villagers was called off after dusk. “We will resume tomorrow morning,” a senior district official said.
The river water receded this afternoon, causing problems for the boats involved in the search.
“We searched for bodies along the banks downstream for about 10-12km from the culvert from where the bus fell and was swept away. Villagers have been told to keep looking (for bodies) and report to the police in case they find any,” the official said.
Bankura police chief Mukesh Kumar said the bodies recovered today were those of Ajit Mudi, 22, of Ghorajagi village in West Midnapore; Bibhas Pramanik, 35, of Bengai in Hooghly; Jayanti Sabar, 24, of Dodra village in Belpahari; Sumanta Haldar, 21, of Jhargram; and Mrinal Kanti Sahu, 29, who was a vocational teacher at Raipur High School. The body of a 10-year-old child found near Binpur in West Midnapore is yet to be identified. Binpur is 35km from the accident spot.
Two bodies, those of Somnath Dutta, 28, of Fulkusma and Jit Ghorai, 13, of Shilda, were recovered yesterday by a group of villagers who pulled the drifting bus towards the bank with ropes.
Five of the bodies found today were taken to the Raipur block primary health centre.
The government has announced a compensation of Rs 2 lakh to the next of kin of each of the dead.
Nearly 1,000 people blocked the Shilda-Durgapur Road demanding that a bridge be constructed across the Bhairavbanki. The roadblock, which began at 8.30am, was withdrawn at 2pm after officers from Barikul police station assured the protesters that their demand would be placed before district officials. The minister for child welfare, Shyamaprasad Mukherjee, was also present at the spot.
Satyabrata Shau, a garment trader who was among the agitators, said: “We want a bridge across the river. Had there been one, the water of the river in spate would have flown under it. The bus was washed away because river water gushed over the culvert.”
The driver of the bus, Anil Nandi, who was arrested last night, was remanded to 14 days’ judicial custody. “Nandi, a resident of Jagadolla in Bankura town, has been charged with rash and negligent driving,” police chief Mukesh said.
“The driver was arrested because of his negligence. When the drivers of another bus and a truck did not cross the culvert after seeing the raging waters of the Bhairavbanki flowing over it, Nandi showed recklessness by going ahead with his bus, which was carrying 60 passengers,” a police officer said.
The conductor and the helper fled after swimming ashore, some of the survivors said. Nandi was trapped in the driver’s cabin and was rescued by villagers.
A nine-month-old girl named Seema is still missing. Her mother Jayanti Sabar died in the accident.