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Bodies of 5 students found, search continues for 21 others swept away in Beas

New Delhi, June 9 (Agencies): Rescuers on Monday fished out bodies of five students and were searching for 20 others and a professor swept away by waters released from a dam while the group was bathing in the Beas river in Himachal Pradesh.

Chief minister Virbhadra Singh has ordered a magisterial inquiry and suspension of the resident engineer of Larji hydropower project.

Teams of SSB, assisted by police, homeguard and local divers and rafters intensified search operations in the area from Thalout to Pandoh dam.

The bodies found so far are of three boys and two girls, the SSB officials at the Mandi Control Room said.

Officials say prospects of finding the rest alive are bleak after the students, who were on a college trip from southern India, were swept away when the waters of the river spiked dangerously high on Sunday.

Whether warning signals were sounded before the dam released water is a matter of dispute.

“There was no warning,” said D. Naidu, principal of the VNR Vignana Jyothi Institute of Engineering & Technology, the south Indian college from which 65 students had set off on the trip.

“They were trying to take photos on the banks when they were washed away,” he told Reuters, saying he spoke to the survivors.

Others disputed the account.

Mandeep Singh, an engineer on the dam's power plant, told news channel CNN-IBN that staff sounded warnings before releasing the water and local residents “definitely warned the students to come out of the river” several times.

Officials have launched an investigation to determine the sequence of events, said police official Rajesh Kumar, but are now focused on rescue operations to find the rest of the group.

“The chances are minimal” to find them alive, he said, “but we're trying.”

Terming the incident as unfortunate, the Chief Minister said, “Students had come with teachers. I think the teachers should have taken precaution that the students did not go to the river bed. But anyway I do not want to blame anybody”.