Mumbai: At least 23 nwere killed and several missing after a dam in Maharashtra's coastal Konkan region breached following incessant rains, leading to a flood-like situation in downstream villages, officials said on Wednesday.
The Tiware dam in Chiplun taluka of Ratnagiri district has a storage capacity of 20 lakh cubic metre. It developed a breach late on Tuesday night after heavy rains, a district official said. A local police official said 11 bodies have been recovered so far, adding that the total toll would be 23. The dam breach caused a flood-like situation in seven downstream villages, with as many as 12 houses being swept away. When contacted, Additional Superintendent of Police, Ratnagiri, Vishal Gaikwad said a search operation has been launched by the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) and state police personnel and the villagers moved to safety.
"Police have moved the villagers to safer places. The situation is under control now," he said. Another police officer said rescue operations were hampered initially due to darkness and sudden influx of water.
However, local public representatives alleged that the government neglected their pleas for maintenance of the dam. They claimed to have written to the administration about the cracks in the walls of the dam, but no action was taken. Relatives of the victims said they had asked district administration to repair the dam as they had spotted cracks in November last year. There was an issue over the jurisdiction of which tehsil Tiware dam falls in, as Chiplun and Dapoli tehsil offices had ignored the application of the villagers, said a family member of one of the dead.
"It is only because of their negligence that we have seen this day," he said. "My parents, wife and child of one and a half year is missing," he added. "My brother, who had gone to bring his vehicle did not return," he said.
Maharashtra Water Resources Minister Girish Mahajan said villagers in the area had complained of cracks in the dam.
"This dam was built 14 years ago. The state government will find out at which level there was negligence and necessary action will be taken accordingly," he said. Homes of the villagers washed away will be constructed at safe places, he said. A compensation of Rs 4 lakh will be given to the kin of each of the deceased person, he added. Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis has ordered an inquiry into the incident. "The reason for the breach will be probed and action would be taken against the guilty expeditiously," he said.
Fadnavis contacted the district administration and took stock of the relief and rescue operations, an official statement said. Some local residents claimed that Water Resources department official recently visited the dam, which was filled to its capacity, after complaints that the walls had developed cracks.