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6 feared drowned as truck falls into canal
Jupinderjit Singh
Tribune News Service

Rara Sahib (Ludhiana), August 8
Two persons were dead, four children feared drowned and 19 were injured when a truck carrying 46 devotees fell into the Bathinda Feeder Canal near Gurdwara Karamsar, Rara Sahib, near here this morning.

The bodies of Ms Balwant Kaur (82), mother of the injured driver Darshan Singh of Moga and Angrej Singh (20) of Samadh Bhai ke, were fished out by residents of nearby villages, a team of Army men and the police, while the search operation for four children was still on.

The children included two brothers, Akashdeep (6) and Amandeep (7), Puja (12) and Vijay Kumar (11). Two cranes were used to pull the ill-fated truck out of the canal while two Army boats and divers were searching for those still missing.

The pilgrims, mainly belonging to Moga district, especially Samadh Bhai ke, Nihal Singh Wala and Badhni villages, were returning after paying obeisance at Naina Devi temple and Anandpur Sahib. They had taken the road along the canal to pay obeisance at Rara Sahib on the way.

Col Dal Singh of an Army Engineering unit and SI Sanjeev Kumar, in charge Doraha police post, said the accident took place at 9:10 am at a narrow stretch of the road. The road had shrunk considerably over the past few months with the canal eating into the embankments, while a row of 12 fully-grown eucalyptus trees blocked the road from the other side. The narrow stretch was barely adequate for a large vehicle to pass through slowly.

Mr Joginder Singh of Badhni village, who was travelling in the truck, told The Tribune that the passenger-side door of the truck, which was tied with ropes and left semi-open, hit the trees when the driver was trying to negotiate the narrow stretch. Due to the sound of the impact the truck driver panicked and turned right, plummeting straight into the canal, where the truck overturned.

The tragedy could have been averted had the state government taken steps to expand the stretch of the road. Apart from the residents of nearby villages, the SDM Payal, Mr T S Dhaliwal, who was on the spot said, he had been corresponding with the Division Forest Office, the Irrigation and the Canal Department, for the last several months asking them to repair the road stretch and remove the bottleneck at the earliest. But nothing was done even though The Tribune had been highlighting the problem for the last one month.

Residents of surrounding villages, including Bilaspur, Katahri, Ghutani Ghanghas and Ghaloti came in droves to help the victims.

Mr Jaswant Singh and Mr Jagpreet Singh of Katahri village reached the spot with seven-eight other youths of Katahri village. They had brought along tyre tubes and were the first to dive into the canal. They said about 15 victims had swam to safety while others were still stuck up.

The four missing children were sitting on the open cabin directly above the driverís seat. They seemed to have fallen in the centre of the canal when the truck over turned.

The Deputy Commissioner, Mr Ashok Kumar Gupta, said that eight of the injured persons were admitted to Karamsar Rara Sahib Hospital, while three were admitted to the Civil Hospital Ahmedgarh. Later, one injured was shifted to DMC Hospital Ludhiana.

Mr Gupta announced an ex-gratia grant of Rs 1 lakh to the next of kin of the dead and Rs 10,000 for each injured person. He said that the expenditure on their treatment in hospitals would also be borne by the government.

The Deputy Commissioner said that the people from the surrounding villages, who had shown exemplary courage in rescue operations, would be honoured by the administration at the district-level Independence Day function on August 15.

The injured persons admitted to different hospitals included Atma Singh of Moga, Manjit Kaur, Pritam Kaur, Paramjit Kaur, Harbhajjan Kaur, Jagjit Singh, Tarsem Singh Moga, Harjit Singh (all residents of Moga), Kiranjit Kaur and Ajaib Chand both residents of Samadh Bhai ke.

Apart from Mr Gupta, DIG Parag Jain, SSP M F Farooqui, Khanna, SDM T S Dhaliwal, Payal, and other officers of the administration and police rushed to the site and supervised the rescue operations.

Meanwhile, Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh today expressed profound grief over the tragic accident in which two persons were washed away and four children were still missing after an ill-fated truck carrying 46 pilgrims fell into a canal near Rara Sahib in Ludhiana district on its way back from Naina Devi.

The Chief Minister had also directed the civil and police administration of the district to intensify the rescue and relief operations in the hour of crisis.




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