Sucked in by dangerous currents - The New Indian Express

Sucked in by dangerous currents

Published: 12th September 2013 08:09 AM

Last Updated: 12th September 2013 08:09 AM

The rising number of drowning deaths of youngsters from the city has been a cause for serious concern recently. Police say that most incidents have occurred after partying and drinking, and are common when groups of young boys, students and software professionals go on picnics to riverine spots, beaches and waterfalls in Mandya, Mangalore, Hassan and Shimoga districts of Karnataka.

Most deaths by drowning have occurred in these districts when inebriated victims have entered the water where the swirls and currents are heavy, say district police officials. According to Mandya SP, Bhushan Gulabrao Borase, till last year, 133 deaths had occurred in places like Muthathi, Shimsa, Sangama (Srirangapatna), Balmuri, Gaganchukki and other spots in Mandya district alone. “But, due to better coordination and policing, there has been a 30-40 per cent reduction in drowning deaths this year. Most youngsters from Bangalore, riding motor bikes, stop at random locations and start drinking and then enter river stretches without a thought for any kind of safety measure. Ninety per cent of the deaths have been due to drunken victims entering the waters either to enjoy themselves or save a friend without even a life jacket on,” the SP adds.

The Mandya Police have recently concluded a comprehensive study of the incidents of drowning at tourist spots in their district and found the need for a ‘Green Police’ and alcohol-meters to check such accidental deaths.

Home guards will be given proper training to deal with tourists and will also be provided watch towers, live jackets and other safety measures. A proposal to erect barricades at Muthathi and Sangama by Karnataka Land Army is on the cards at a cost of Rs 67 lakh to check people from entering dangerous spots.

“On Saturdays and Sundays, we deploy more number of policemen as there are many more tourists but for some tourist spots like Muthathi which is a 10-kilometre stretch, we feel a green police is needed. This proposal is still in the pipeline with the district tourism council yet to take a decision. Incidents have been higher at Muthathi and Sangama while sporadic in places like Balmuri and Gaganachukki. With better coordination with the forest department and two check posts at Muthathi, we have ensured that no liquor is available in this area. We have raided local liqour shops in Muthathi village to bring down drinking and therefore, there has been a drastic reduction in the number of drowning cases in Mandya this year,” the SP adds.

Shocking statistics

According to a recent survey by World Health Organisation, in India alone, one person drowns every 8 minutes. The drowning rate is six times higher than US and European countries.

The National Crime Records Bureau Accidental Death report cites that 28,000 people died due to drowning in 2012 that is 7.3 per cent out of the total number of 3.95 lakh accidental deaths in India. Further, 78 per cent of the victims were men and 60 per cent were in the age group of 15-44 years. 

Apart from this, the drowning rate is substantially higher in the south, with the city of Mangalore reporting as high as 13.55 per cent rate of death by drowning. Although district authorities of Dakshin Kannada have taken all precautions and safety measures to prevent drowning deaths, three deaths were reported in Panambur and Someshwar recently.

Many youngsters who travel from Bangalore are hardly aware of the strong rip currents during monsoons when they wade in knee deep waters at both these places and end up panicking and drowning. Warning boards have been installed at the three beaches of Panambur, Someshwar and Tannirbhavi which see a lot of tourists during both off and on season. However, youngsters who are inebriated and over confident drown in these beaches unable to bear the currents despite being good swimmers, say local people. Once upon a time, 200 people used to drown every year in Mangalore but with the formation of Beach Tourism Development Projects at all the places, the number of deaths has come down drastically.

Opines CEO Yatish Baikampadi of Panambur Beach Tourism Development Project, “Every year, 15-18 deaths would occured here but since the inception of the project in 2008, when five people drowned, this year, there was only one casualty recently at Panambur. Apart from four marshalls who also double up as life guards, for a stretch of one kilometre, we have deployed eight life guards who have till date saved many lives, 77 in 2008. They were all pulled out of water in critical condition. Despite warning boards highlighting the number of deaths and dangerous spots on the beaches, people hardly pay any heed. Only a physical management of the situation is a solution to prevent deaths by drowning. Our life guards who are trained and selected from the local fishing community can deal with any kind of situation as they know the sea and its dangers,” he stresses.

Thrill-seekers

Summing up the reasons for drowning deaths, Baikampadi says, “Usually, a group of youngsters, after consumption of alcohol enters the waters during strong currents. Most of them are from urban areas, over confident, know swimming but only in a pool and have no idea of the nature of the sea or its rip currents during the monsoons. When they wade in 3-4 feet of water which is deadly, they are sucked in, they panic and usually die of shock. Most of the times, they are unable to come back to shore because of fear and cramps. Certain locations in beaches are known for rip currents which foreign tourists can easily identify and tackle. But Alas! Locals cannot do so and enter their watery grave.”

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