KARACHI, Aug 26: A total of 12 people drowned in the sea last week mainly during the Eid holidays and most of them met their fate along the unguarded 47-kilometere coastal line where despite stakes and authority of some nine institutions no arrangement has been made for the picnickers’ rescue, it emerged on Sunday.
The only rescue unit — Emergency Response Centre (ERC) — is being taken care of by the Karachi Municipal Corporation and it is mandated to offer rescue service to picnickers along the 17-kilometere coastal belt. Though the beaches under the KMC’s ERC also witnessed drowning of five people last week, most of the casualties were reported along the 47-kilometres-long coastline, which is unmanned.
“From the first day of Eid (Aug 20) to the last day of the three-day holiday we received 12 bodies of drowning victims,” said an official at the medico-legal section of the Civil Hospital Karachi. “The victims included residents of the Godhra Camp area in New Karachi. They all were young males, residents of Karachi and picnickers. In a few cases, nearly four or five people were shifted to hospital for treatment after they were rescued from drowning.”
The situation seems grim when it comes to rescue units and deployment of lifeguards on the 47-kilometeres coast belt, which houses a number of picnic spots and attracts thousands of visitors from Karachi and neighbouring Hyderabad. Karachi’s 64-kilometre-long coastal belt starts from Keti Bundar and goes right up to Mubarak Village though the ERC monitors only 17 kilometres of the coast. The remaining 47km is looked after by other authorities: the Port Qasim Authority, Landhi Fish Harbour (near Rehri Goth), Korangi Creek, Cantonment Board Clifton, Defence Housing Authority, Karachi Port Trust, Pakistan Navy, Cantonment Board Manora and Karachi Nuclear Power Plant.
“In our jurisdiction during Eid holidays, some 15 to 20 incidents of drowning were reported that led to some five deaths,” said Mairaj Khan, the station officer at the Emergency Response Centre at Hawkesbay. “The Section 144 is already imposed and picnic at four spots — Neelum Point, Cap Mount, Mubarak Village and Sunehra Beach — but due to non-deployment of the police people did not follow the rules.”
With 56 lifeguards and several volunteers posted at different points of the 17-kilometere coastal belt under his command, he said the unit also daily handled several cases of bluebottle bite, including rescue and treatment.
The KMC unit’s efforts to rescue picnickers led to a little decrease in the number of drowning incidents this season, but huge unattended crowds during the Eid holidays on different points of the 47-kilometre unguarded coastal line put hundreds of picnickers in danger.
“That particular area (47-kilometre) is looked after by different institutions, including the Port Qasim Authority, Korangi Fish Harbour, Cantonment Board Clifton, Defence Housing Authority, Karachi Port Trust, Pakistan Navy, Cantonment Board Manora and Kanupp,” said a KMC official while explaining the hurdle in deploying lifeguards at all picnic points.
“A few of them cite security reasons and don’t allow permanent presence in their area, but it’s a matter of human life and there should be some arrangements for proper deployment of lifeguards in these areas.”