Raigad, Aug.3 : The armed forces joined rescue operations in Maharashtra's Raigad district after a colonial-era bridge was washed away in the early hours of Wednesday in a river overflowing due to recent heavy rains.
More than 20 people aboard two buses and other vehicles are feared missing. The two buses were on their way to Mumbai when the older of two parallel bridges on the Mumbai-Goa highway collapsed near Mahabaleshwar hill station, media reports quoted eyewitnesses as saying.
Raigad Superintendent of Police, Suvez Haque, said that multiple agencies were involved in the rescue operations.
"First of all, we have sought help from Indian Air Force and Indian Coast Guard choppers. Two navy choppers are also involved in the operation. Currently 21 National Disaster Response Force personnel are also aiding in the search operations and another 100 are on their way here.
A team of navy divers has arrived," said Haque. Rains and strong currents in the river hampered the rescue operations. Though no vehicles have been found so far, bodies of two men were recovered from the river and have been sent for post mortem.
Rescue personnel were seen toiling as they struggled to row their boats against the currents while choppers carried out recces over the river.
Meanwhile, the NDRF team from Pune is at the site of the tragedy along with the Coast Guard, rowing boats, inflatable rafts, choppers and all equipments.
Heavy rains are causing a hurdle in the rescue operation. "The information we have received (is) that the bridge has broken and then two buses and two-three vehicles are fallen in the river and the current is very fast.
So we have sent our teams here immediately as we have received the situation report," said Commandant of the 5th Battalion of India's National Disaster Response Force (NDRF), Anupam Shrivastava.
Meanwhile, traffic was diverted to the new parallel bridge, constructed in 2000. Maharashtra has been pounded by heavy rains for almost a week now causing the rivers to swell..