The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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‘Girls came out and ran’

Purulia/Calcutta, July 29: A “massive wave” had knocked over and swept away the five trekkers yesterday while they were crossing a narrow but turbulent mountain stream, leaping from boulder to boulder, according to the two survivors.

A day after Bappaditya Chatterjee and Kaushik Sarkhel were rescued and brought to Bagmundi near Purulia town, they narrated in their confused and sometimes contradictory manner how the tragedy had unfolded at the foot of the Ayodhya Hills.

“It was raining heavily and we were trying to cross the river. The water came only up to our waist and we were confident of making it across,” Bappaditya said.

“Boulders were jutting out across the width of the river and we were jumping from stone to stone when this wave lashed us. We tried to hold on to each other but it didn’t help.”

Breaking down repeatedly as he described how an “idyllic trek” had turned into tragedy, Bappaditya said: “Although the water was not very deep, it was still very swift. I was desperately flailing my arms about. Luckily, I spotted a tree branch and held on to it firmly. I saw the others being swept away.”

As he dragged himself out of the waters of the river Sobha, Bappaditya was surprised to find that his cell phone was still in his pocket and was working. “I called up a friend in Calcutta who informed the university.”

But the officer in charge of Bagmundi police station, Kushal Biswas, said Bappaditya had given him a different account of the crossing a few hours earlier.

“I think he is a bit confused and in a state of shock,” Biswas said.

According to the officer, Bappaditya had said the group had used a rope to try and wade across. “He told me they tied one end of the rope to a boulder and, holding on to it, slowly began wading through the river. They lost their grip when the wave hit them.”

Kaushik backed Bappaditya’s version but claimed “the water level was high”. “The current was very swift, too,” he said. “We were holding hands and jumping from one stone to another when we lost balance and fell into the water.”

Kaushik said Swati and Arundhati, too, had come out of the water with him. But suddenly, the girls panicked and ran away, he said, without explaining what made them do so.

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