Five farm workers, including four women, were washed away when the bullock cart in which they were travelling overturned in the swirling waters of the Kinnerasani at Sompally in Burgumpadu mandal on Thursday morning. Three others were rescued.

The tragedy occurred when the bullock cart carrying eight farm labourers to a nearby agriculture field on the other side of the river got stuck in the middle of the river. Caught in strong currents, the bullock cart overturned.

While five of them drowned, three were saved by local fishermen. The dead were identified as Thokala Yerraiah, 40, his wife Vijaya, 30, and close relatives Bingi Nagamma, 35, K Rajini, 21, and B Ramanamma, 30, of Sompally village. The rescued women farm workers were rushed to the government area hospital at Bhadrachalam where their condition was stated to be stable.

Though Yerraiah was an expert swimmer, he could not save himself as panic-stricken women workers clung to him.

Heartrending scenes were witnessed on the banks of the river as the grief-stricken family members wailed inconsolably over the tragic death of their breadwinners.

Joint Collector M.M. Naik and Palvancha RDO Shyam Prasad consoled them.

Mr. Shyam Prasad said the gates of the Kinnerasani project remained closed on Thursday. “The water level in the Kinnerasani reservoir is gradually increasing,” he said adding that the gates were likely to be opened at night after cautioning people living downstream of the project.

An interim relief of Rs. 5,000 was paid to each bereaved family. The children of the deceased would be admitted to residential schools run under the Rajiv Vidya Mission, he said.