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Marooned 10 saved in the dead of night

Bokaro, June 21: Marooned overnight in the surging waters of Damodar river, 10 Bokaro boys were rescued by divers around 2am this morning, ending an eight-hour fishing trip ordeal that Chandankyari town will remember for long.

Hundreds of local residents watched as 12 divers took turns to swim and save the boys perched precariously atop a platform adjoining a DVC tank in the Damodar whose water level had receded after the Bokaro administration ordered Tenughat dam authorities to halt the release of water.

The boys, all residents of BCCL colony in Dugda, about a kilometre from the spot, were brought back to shore by 4am. But the debate has now shifted on whether the Tenughat authorities had followed protocol by informing residents of neighbouring areas before releasing water from the dam yesterday evening.

Relieved after the successful rescue mission, Bokaro deputy commissioner (DC) Uma Shankar Singh instituted an inquiry today to find out if Tenughat authorities acted in haste or had informed people well in advance about its plan to release water.

Although the dam authorities claimed it had published notices in local vernacular dailies, the boys said they had no idea that water was to be released from the reservoir.

The boys, Harendra Kumar, Uttam Kumar, Pankaj Chowdhury, Santosh Kumar, Arun Kumar, Guddu Patel, Ashok Kumar, Rakesh Kumar Mahto, Pramanand and Chotelal Bhuiyan, are all aged between 12 and 20. They are from families of BCCL employees working at Dugda colliery.

Two of their friends, Dipak Kumar and Arun Prasad, who had also accompanied them, were able to swim ashore on their own.

“I have ordered an inquiry to find out how water was released and whether prior information was provided by the Tenughat dam authorities,” said DC Singh.

Executive engineer of Tenughat dam Arvind Jha claimed they had taken adequate precautions and had written to the SDO, on June 10 and June 11 (letter Nos. 398 and 411), to inform him that after June 16, as in previous years, water would be released whenever the dam was full.

“Public notices were published in two vernacular dailies on June 17, asking villagers and others living within the danger zones not to come near the river bed as water might be released any time because it had started to rain heavily and the water level was above the danger mark,” Jha said.

Jha added he would send the deputy commissioner copies of the notices.

But the boys maintained none of them was aware about the Tenughat dam’s plans.

“Had we known about the release of water, we would never have risked our lives,” said Uttam Kumar, whose parents living in adjoining Chanduadih village also alleged that no prior information about release of water had been provided.

Asked why they ventured out to fish in the river when Bokaro and its adjoining areas experienced heavy rainfall the past couple of days, others in the group seconded their friends.

“Some of our friends had told us that water would be released, but we were not sure that Tenughat authorities would do so yesterday,” said Pankaj Chowdhury, who was supported in his claim by Guddu Patel.

But why the desperate urge to fish in inclement weather? Fish, they explained, is easily caught in the rainy season. And all 12 of them decided to make the most of it yesterday.

“We were caught unawares as suddenly water gushed in and all of us panicked. Had we not reached the DVC platform on time, we would have lost our lives,” said Pankaj.


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