Search is on to trace them

At least four engineering students were feared drowned while taking bath in the river Mahanadi near Bhatarika temple at Badamba, about 90 km from here, on Sunday afternoon. Another student, who was also with them, had a narrow escape as he managed to swim ashore.

While search operation was undertaken by the local fire-brigade personnel, the missing students have not yet been traced till evening. Local administration, including police personnel, is also assisting the rescue team.

Badamba legislator and State Higher Education Minister Devi Prasad Mishra, who was in the town when the incident occurred, also rushed to the spot to supervise the rescue operation. While expert swimmers and boatmen of the locality made an effort to trace the missing students, they remained untraced as the river is very deep at the spot, said a social worker, Saroj Kishore Mohanty.

According to the police, five second-year students of a private engineering college in Dhenkanal, about 100 km from the spot, came to visit the famous temple on the bank of the river on two motorcycles. After visiting the temple, they decided to take bath in the river, police said quoting the student who had a providential escape.

“All the five students were bathing at the ghat between 1.30 and 2.00 pm when they were swept away. While Tapas Behera, a native of Dhenkanal swam ashore, remaining four went missing,” said Badamba police station officer-in-charge Biswajit Mohanty.

Tapas, however, maintained that he did not enter the river and instead asked his friends not to do so as there could be undercurrent since the river looked very dangerous at the spot. “They did not listen to me and went inside the river,” Tapas told a local TV channel.

Parents' plea

The missing students were identified as Amitabh Rout of Angul, Pinaki Pradhan of Talcher, Jayant Naik of Paradeep and Pranab Pradhan of Phulbani. All the students were staying in the college hostel, sources said adding that the parents and relatives of the missing students rushed to the spot and were fervently appealing everybody in the locality to look for their wards.