Beachgoers pay no heed to warnings, bathing ban

22 Jun 2014

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People at Paradise Point head into the rough sea despite a ban on going into the water and several warnings from lifeguards.—Fahim Siddiqi / White Star
People at Paradise Point head into the rough sea despite a ban on going into the water and several warnings from lifeguards.—Fahim Siddiqi / White Star

KARACHI: Despite a ban imposed on bathing in the sea, lakes, rivers and canals in Sindh, picnickers heading towards the several beaches of Karachi couldn’t be stopped from entering the water.

On Saturday morning, the body of 25-year-old man, Atta-ur-Rahman, was pulled out of the sea at Hawkesbay, which also didn’t deter the people from violating the ban. Adventurous fathers got into the water and pulled their timid and bawling children in, too, to show them that there was no need to be afraid of the water.

“Well, we aren’t going in too deep, just getting our feet wet,” said Ismat Zehra, who was picnicking with her husband and two little children at the Sandspit beach.

She with the others was way beyond the red flag, signifying danger, placed by the lifeguards to mark the line one wasn’t supposed to cross.

“These people just don’t get it. Only on Friday we pulled out three drowning picnickers from the sea. The fourth one wasn’t as lucky and we found his body Saturday morning. At first those people, too, had intended to only get their feet wet in the waves. But the sea is rough. They don’t even realise when it pulls them too deep in and then they get caught in the waves,” said Naseer Ahmed, one of the Aman-Pal Lifeguards stationed at the beach.

“The people get rather offended if we try to warn them or persuade them to get out of the water,” Shabab Ali, another lifeguard, said.

On Saturday, hoards of people headed towards the beaches. They had rented pick-ups, vans, buses and even rickshaws to reach there. “It is hot. Also Ramazan is coming. We may not get a chance to come here later,” said another picnicker, Najam Siddiqui, at Hawkesbay.

Further up, on the road to a popular picnic spot, Paradise Point, there were several Rangers personnel stopping people from taking pictures due to the landmark being near the sensitive Karachi Nuclear Power Plant, or Kanupp, but they didn’t seem concerned about their getting into the water.

Meanwhile, KMC lifeguards Mohammad Ismail, Haider Ali and Shahnawaz were finding it difficult to control the crowds. “These people climb on top of the Paradise Point rock, or what’s left of it, to dive into the water from there. They can hit their head on the rocks in the water as the beach here is very rocky but they don’t care. Still we care. That’s why we have spread dried thorny bush branches on the path to the top. It is working somewhat but what to do here?” The lifeguard, Shahnawaz, pointed to the people in the water. “They see the sea and just go mad.”

Mohammad Mairaj Khan, head of the Karachi Metropolitan Corporation’s Emergency Resource Centre at Hawkesbay, complained that the law-enforcers were not doing their part in stopping people from going into the rough sea. “We are just a handful of lifeguards here. Our duty is to warn people or pull them out of the water alive or dead. But when there it is Section 144 imposed, it is the job of law enforcement agencies to stop people from getting to the beach. We need their cooperation here.

“They are stationed here at various points leading to the beaches but they let everyone pass anyway. They only wake up to reality if six or seven people drown at once. The one or two here and there who lose their lives thanks to their negligence in stopping them from reaching here makes no difference to them at all,” he said.

“The young man who drowned yesterday was a swimmer. Watching him swim in the ocean others too followed. We managed to pull them out alive but the swimmer couldn’t be saved. Two days ago, two teenage boys drowned off the Seaview beach near Floating Ship restaurant, and only the body of one could be recovered.”

Published in Dawn, June 22nd, 2014