Ratnagiri dam collapse: Family recounts how a shout saved many lives; death toll mounts to 18

The death toll in the Tiware dam breach incident in Ratnagiri district of Maharashtra mounted to 18 on Thursday with the recovery of three more bodies. Police said that at least five persons are still missing, adding that the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) officials are conducting search operations. The Tiware dam is located in Chiplun tehsil of the states coastal district. It breached late on Tuesday night following torrential rains in the region. The breach caused a flood-like situation, affecting more than 3,000 people in several downstream villages. People living in the downstream villages say that they are facing a harrowing time as the breach in the dam swept away their houses and other items including cattle. Narayan Gaikwad, a local affected by the deluge, told The Indian Express that he and his family were having dinner on Tuesday night when they heard the warning Dharan futala, dharan futala (The dam has breached, the dam has breached) that changed their lives. Then, we ran up the slope behind the house. We stayed up there the whole night in the rain, He said that he and his family which includes his wife, son and grandson were among the lucky ones who survived because the house was on the edge of the flow. In the Bhendewadi hamlet of Tiware village, which was barely 100 metres from the dam wall, he said that flooding washed away neighbours. When we came back early in the morning, we saw that the houses of our neighbours, the Chavan families, were not there, Gaikwad also said that his entire rice crop on the one-acre farm next to the house was also destroyed. Fate wiped out these families from their roots. I don In Bhendewadi, flooding washed away 12 of the 17 houses and a temple. The remaining houses include that of Gaikwad which suffered heavy damages. The IE report said that the dam had undergone temporary repairs recently. It started overflowing on Tuesday evening after the coastal Konkan region received heavy rains. Around 9.30 pm, a part of the wall developed a crack. Soon, a large portion was completely demolished by the water and submerged at least six villages with a population of around 3,000. The affected people are now being sheltered in a school, a few km away from the dam. Another resident Ajit Chavan said that his brother Ranjit had gone to take the bike and never came back. He said that the flooding also claimed the lives of his parents. People from neighbouring villages are assisting the officials in rescue operations. Abaji Shinde, who is from a neighbouring village and voluntarily assisting in relief operations, said that it is difficult to see people waiting for news of their loved ones and breaking down as the bodies arrive. The incident has now triggered a political slugfest with the opposition targeting the BJP-Shiv Sena government. The opposition Congress and NCP have alleged that the government Congress leader Vijay Wadettiwar demanded that a case of culpable homicide be registered against a Shiv Sena MLAs firm, which constructed Tiware dam. The dam was constructed 19 years ago by Khemraj, the firm run by Shiv Sena MLA Sadanand Chavan. The fact that the dam developed cracks in less than two decades and breached resulting in a loss of innocent lives shows that the work was mired in corruption and irregularities, Wadettiwar said. Calling for action against the guilty, Maharashtra NCP chief Jayant Patil said, How many lives will it take for the government to wake up?\u201d