CHENNAI: Twenty-five years after David Hasselhoff showed the world just how busy and sophisticated lifeguards’ lives could be through the hit TV show Baywatch, Chennai’s beaches still don’t have a semblance of lifeguard cover.
Sunday’s incident where a couple enjoying the waters of the Marina were dragged away by the waves underscores the fear that experts in life saving have nursed for years.
Tarun Murugesh, a lifeguard trainer with the Rashtriya Life Saving Society, said, “We have made several representations to the government to set up dedicated lifeguards with communication equipment and lifesaver training, but nothing has come of it yet.”
Though lakhs of people frequent the beach, only a pitiable portion know how to help a person in deep water danger, he said.
With over 2 km of beach to protect, the police often find themselves inept at keeping people safe — opting to yell at people randomly for splashing around. The 108 ambulance service has put a 4WD ambulance to zip across the Marina’s sand, but they are limited to helping if/when the victim is rescued. With just one ATV prowling the sands and a few mounted cops on horses, all they can hope to do is call for help when someone cries out in need. “Lifesaving can only be done by strong swimmers. We’ve trained the commandos in the Coastal Security Group but their outlook is more towards anti-terror activities. Practically no one is looking to save lives by employing lifesavers,” Murugesh said.
Together with surfer-fishermen at Covelong Point (Kovalam) and volunteers from the Australia-based Surf Life Savers Initiative, Murugesh is mulling setting up a pilot project to monitor one of the smaller beach sections along the Marina coastline with lifeguards and complete cover.
“Obviously, we cannot change the world but we can try to make a small difference and show that many lives can be saved,” he said.
Policemen on patrol duty explain that they have been given a clear protocol on how to respond when there is a possible drowning reported. A senior police official, in charge of one of the stations along the beach, said, “Recently, we have put up sign boards warning people not to enter the water. Our foot patrols are alert and can immediately call in the CSG and Coast Guard rescue boats when someone is reported missing. The ambulance can perform life saving services on the spot now.”