Seven girls, aged 10 to 18, drowned in a deep pit filled with water near a check dam built across the Gedilam river at A. Kuchipalayam near Cuddalore on Sunday.
The deceased were identified as R. Priyadarshini, 15, her sister Divya Darshini, 10, of Ayan Kurunjipadi village, A. Monisha, 16, M. Navaneetha, 18, K. Priya, 18, S. Sangavi, 16 and M. Kumudha, 18, all hailing from A. Kuchipalayam village.
The incident occurred around 12.45 p.m.
Police said the girls gathered near a 15-foot-deep pit located 300 metres from a check dam built across the Gedilam river at noon. The pit was filled with water after the recent rains. They entered into the waters to take bath. When they ventured into a deeper part of the pit, two of the girls were trapped inside and started drowning.
The others tried to rescue them, but they too drowned. On information, Fire and Rescue Services personnel retrieved the bodies and sent them for post-mortem to the Cuddalore Government General Hospital (GH).
As the tragic news spread, the family members of the victims thronged the GH. Minister for Agriculture and Farmers Welfare M.R.K. Panneerselvam and Cuddalore Collector K. Balasubramaniam called on the family members at the GH and consoled them.
Eyewitnesses said there were several pits along the banks of the river near the check dam and children often come to bathe.
When contacted, Mr. Balasubramaniam said an RDO inquiry had been ordered into the incident. He said the Revenue Department had been directed to place warning boards in the area. All Village Administrative Officers had been instructed to take necessary precautionary measures at all water bodies to prevent instances of drowning, he said.
Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M.K. Stalin condoled the death of the seven persons and announced a solatium of ₹5 lakh to the families of each of the deceased from the Chief Minister’s Public Relief Fund.
Mr. Panneerselvam told reporters that a soil test would be conducted in the area. An inquiry would also be held on how the pit had formed, he said. The Minister handed over ₹25,000 each as his own contribution to the families of the seven victims to help them perform the last rites.
Minister for Labour Welfare and Skill Development C.V. Ganesan and Panruti MLA T. Velmurugan also called on the family members at the GH and consoled them.