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Drowning tragedies

June 24, 2018

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OVER the past week, two drowning tragedies have put the spotlight on dangerous conditions in and near Karachi’s beaches during the monsoon season. On Friday, six members of a family — three women and three children — from Karachi’s Lyari area drowned off Gadani beach in Balochistan. The family had gone on a picnic to the popular spot when tragedy struck. According to rescuers, a strong wave swept away the children, and the women were also carried away by the choppy waters as they tried to rescue the youngsters. Meanwhile, earlier in the week, two young men drowned off the city’s Sandspit beach when a group of friends went for an early morning swim over the Eid holidays. Apparently, the youths ignored warnings from locals to not go into the water as it is particularly rough during this time of year. It should be noted that these unfortunate incidents occurred whilst an official ban on swimming in the sea is in effect.

Tragedies like these occur year after year off Karachi’s beaches. Of course, stopping people from visiting the beach is no solution. Various steps can be taken to prevent such occurrences, including increasing the number of lifeguards and running repeated media campaigns about the hazards of venturing into rough waters. Experts have noted that the currents off Karachi’s coast can be strong, while some of the beaches are uneven, with hazards laying in wait for unsuspecting swimmers. Signage indicating dangerous spots is essential, while having more physically fit lifeguards trained in basic first-aid techniques can help. It is also true that most beaches lack health facilities. This can be remedied by establishing health units close to popular beaches, capable of providing emergency care to victims. Indeed, the government has a duty to ensure recreational spots are safe for visitors and have the basic infrastructure to tackle emergencies. However, the public must also cooperate with the state; if lifeguards or police personnel caution people against swimming, the public must heed such warnings.

Published in Dawn, June 24th, 2018