VISAKHAPATNAM: Beaches anywhere in the world are tourist getaways, but Visakhapatnam, called Goa of the East, with a number of scenic beaches is turning out to be a deathtrap for beach lovers.
The beaches are devoid of public address systems and enough warning boards. The result of this is that around 425 deaths have been reported at the six beaches in the city in the past eight years. In most cases, it is students, especially schoolkids, who have met with a watery grave. In the first week of this month, six school students drowned in a beach near Appikonda. Apart from major tourist getaways like Ramakrishna Beach, Rushikonda, Bheemili, Yarada, Appikonda, Gangavaram and Mangamaripeta, beach lovers hang out at Jodugulapalem, Lawson’s Bay, Bheemili and Atchutapuram during weekends — these are far more dangerous stretches. Oceanography experts point out that rip currents are the major reason for the mishaps. Rip currents, which cannot be seen with naked eyes, trigger intense tides which have the ability to suck anyone into the sea. “Due to man-made constructions and encroachments, rip currents are forming in city beaches. The profile of the city beaches has gradually changed. Venturing into these beaches is highly risky,” said retired Andhra University Oceanography HoD Prof OSRU Bhanu Kumar. The retired professor said rip currents form on the Yarada-Bheemili stretch.
“The timing of a rip current formation can’t be predicted but its severity could be, based on its depth. Compared to other beaches in the country, venturing into Visakhapatnam beaches is risky,” he warned. According to the him, in the West, rip current areas are outlined precisely along with the possible time of their occurence and people are alerted, just as cyclones are predicted in India.
“A similar system could be introduced here to save people from drowning. Besides, awareness on rip currents among people is also needed,” he added. Dredging at the sea coast for sand, which increases depth, also poses a threat to the public. At many places, the depth of the sea increased as the sand is mined.
A senior police officer, however, said though there were community guards and display boards on the beaches, people venture deep, particularly youngsters, during weekends. The locals, on the other hand, claim that there are only a few warning boards cautioning people against venturing into the sea. They also cite lack of regular announcements.
Points to Ponder
18 community guards deployed at city beaches
Rip currents occur below the sea surface and trigger intense tides which could suck people in
Man-made constructions and encroachments behind rip currents
Inadequate warning boards and absence of public address systems adding to problems