"We don’t know what happened. All we know now is that some official did not do his duty."

The fear of what their parents would say was writ large on their faces, as was a clear expression of relief that they were alive to tell the tale.

Close to midnight on Monday, the calm that swept over the vast expanse of the Haj Terminal at the Shamshabad Airport was shattered with screams of joy and happiness at seeing their near and dear.

“When we asked the locals at the spot if we could get down to the river bed and take some photographs, they said we could. After about half-an-hour of shooting pictures, we sensed the water slowly creeping over our feet. And sometime later, at about 6.30 p.m., there was a sudden gush of foaming water that sent most of us scrambling out of the river bed. Of the total of 48 students, 24 of us managed to get to safety and sadly the remaining were those who chose to stand on rocks that were soon swamped,” said Divya, Srujan and Ketan.

Ketan said the warning bell was about four km away. Though they initially thought they may not have heard it in the sound made by the water, they were told that the bell did not make a noise at all.

“We don’t know what happened. All we know now is that some official did not do his duty,” he said, adding that even rescue teams comprising expert divers took at least three-and-a-half hours to reach the spot. The local police who arrived much earlier were not of much help because of the speed of the water flow,” he said, fighting back tears.

Each of the 24 engineering students, including seven girls – Rishika, Lavanya, Divya, Mounika, Deepthi, Pratyusha and Navya – shed tears as they hugged their parents. Among the boys were Raman Teja, Raghuvansh, Srikar, Rakesh, Srujan, Nithin, Srikanth, Raghavendra, Chetan, Pratap, Achyut, Anish, Mohan, Ketan, Vishwas, Suharsha and Gunasekhar.

Officials had made arrangements to receive the survivors at the Haj Terminal. Among those who interacted with them were Andhra Pradesh Ministers Kamineni Srinivasa Rao and Ravela Kishore Babu and Telangana Transport Minister P. Mahender Reddy.