Depths of despair

Death lurks in the innumerable water bodies of the state, waiting to give a deadly embrace to unsuspecting victims with their icy cold hands.

Published: 17th September 2017 09:12 AM  |   Last Updated: 17th September 2017 09:12 AM   |  A+A-

At least four persons die due to drowning every day in Kerala

KOCHI: With its long coastline, meandering backwaters and innumerable water bodies, many highly praise the God’s Own Country for being blessed by nature. But seldom do people look into its dark side. 

Be it the beaches and backwaters, pools or rivers, death lurks in these waters, waiting to give a deadly embrace to unsuspecting victims with its icy cold hands. It would be no exaggeration to say after the roads and highways, water bodies in the state are the choicest hunting grounds of the Grim Reaper. In Kerala, at least four people die due to accidental drowning each day if official data can be believed. More shocking is the cold apathy of the state government in driving home the necessity of swimming skills. Apart from providing solatium to the victims of water tragedies, the authorities are still light years away from strictly enforcing swimming classes in all government schools and introducing proper infrastructure. 

As per official data, as many as 1,350 people died in 1,320 incidents of drowning in Kerala in 2016. In 2015, there were as many as 1,380 water-related deaths out of 1,334 cases. In India, drowning is the second highest cause of accidental deaths after road mishaps. As many as 8.9 per cent of deaths is due to drowning. The number is higher than fire-related accidents which stand at 5 per cent.

In 2015, as many as 1,118 men and 262 women met a watery grave in Kerala. In 70 per cent of drowning deaths, people below the age of 30 were involved. Of this, 42 people died due to boat capsize incidents. In India, as many 29,232 people lost their lives in drowning accidents. Training in swimming is the only way to reduce drowning deaths in the state, Aluva-based swimming trainer Saji Valassery said. “For this, the parents, schools and the Education Department should take the interest. In all the drowning accidents, victims would invariably be those without any swimming skills. First of all, parents should understand the importance of swimming. A collective initiative by parents, schools and the government is required to curb such mishaps,” Saji said.

R Prasad, Ernakulam Divisional Officer of the Fire and Rescue Services Department, revealed that most young people below the age of 25 venture into the water without knowing swimming. “In most cases, death happens before our rescue team reaches the spot. The victims often underestimate the flow of water and are washed off by the undercurrent. Some do not have any idea about the  depth of water bodies and venture into it before losing their footing,” he said.

In 2011, the Kerala State Sports Council had introduced mandatory swimming training to students in all schools across Kerala as part of the Physical Training (PT) programme. Even though the programme was in the limelight for a few months, due to unavailability of pools, it died premature. 

Similarly, two years ago, the State Disaster Management Authority also introduced free swimming classes to school children in Thrissur. However, due to fund crunch, the project could not be extended to other districts.

WATERY GRAVES
Walayar Dam (Palakkad) Frequented by college students, many lives were lost here after the victims got stuck in the silt. 
Chalakudy River (Thrissur)Thundering down the Athirappilly falls, the  Chalakudy river has swallowed scores of children.
Banasura Sagar Dam (Wayanad)
One of the key tourist attractions in Wayanad, the dam site has become quite dangerous after repeated incidents of drowning.
Kappad Beach (Kozhikode)
Hundreds of tourists, mainly students, visit this historic beach. Often, bathers get swept away making this spot a watery grave.
Payyambalam Beach (Kannur)
A prime choice for travellers in Kannur district, the beach is often in the news for tragic drowning incidents.
Adyanpara Waterfalls (Malappuram)
Located near Nilambur, it attracts visitors during the monsoon. However, it can be a death trap too.
Meenachil River (Kottayam)
The Bharananganam-Kidangoor stretch of the Meenachil river has turned treacherous because of sand mining and lack of warning boards.
Periyar River (Ernakulam)
The heavy currents of the Periyar around Aluva, Kalady, Malayattoor, Paniyeli Poru and Neriamangalam have claimed many lives.

1,380 
water-related deaths in 1,334 incidents in 2015. As many as 1,118 men and 262 women met a watery grave in Kerala.

8.9% 
deaths are due to drowning in India

70% 
of drowning victims were below the age of 30

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