48 hrs on, baby not yet found; illegal constructions blamed for mishap

Forty-eight since a woman and her one-and-a-half-year-old baby daughter were swept away by rainwater gushing down the hills near the new Katraj tunnel on the Pune-Satara Highway. Though the woman's body was found on Friday morning, there is still no trace of the baby, Sanskruti.

Vishakha Wadekar's body was found within a kilometre of the spot on the road where their car had got stuck on Thursday evening.

The incident brought to fore illegal constructions in hills of Katraj that are being blamed for Thursday's incident.

Local residents said "unauthorised" constructions at the bottom of the hillock and close to the highway over the last few years have blocked natural pathways of water in the hillocks adjoining the highway. With few outlets to drain the water, there are often landslides and heavy waterlogging, they said.

According to reports, Vishakha and her daughter were returning to Aundh from Mahabaleshwar along with other family members, when their car got stuck in rainwater at Velu near Shindewadi, close to the Katraj tunnel. There were half-a-dozen cars that got caught in the water.

The vehicles floated and swayed forcing passengers to abandon them. Relatives of Vishakha managed to scramble to safety but she and her daughter were swept away, reports said.

They were reportedly swept away around 7 pm. Vishakha's body was found in a farm around 4.30 am on Friday.

A landslide near Shindewadi village close to the tunnel had blocked outlets for rainwater resulting in heavy flow of water at the road section close to the tunnel.

Locals also blamed the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) for allegedly blocking drainage channels during recent construction and renovation works.

"There were 5 drainage channels between the tunnel outlet and Shindewadi octroi post. Only two are working. The rest were either blocked during construction work or have been closed down. Also, construction debris and mortar from two buildings close to the road have narrowed down the channels. Thus, water flowing down the hillocks has nowhere to go. This triggers landslides resulting in accidents like the one on Thursday," said Shaikh Abdul, a local resident.

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