KOCHI: To encourage people of all ages to learn swimming, the Valassery River Swimming Club here organised an event on Sunday where a 70-year-old woman swam across the 780-metre-wide stretch of the Periyar with her hands tied.
It was Arifa V K, of Thaikkattukara in Aluva, along with 11-year-old Bharath Krishna, of Kunnumpuram and 38-year-old Dhanya K G of Asokapuram who swam from Madapam Kadavu to Manappuram Desom Kadavu.
“I decided to learn swimming by seeing my children who were trained at the same academy. Nine members of my family know to swim. Earlier this year, I swam across the Periyar. It was my trainer Saji Valassery who gave me the confidence to try it with my hands tied. The message I’d like to share from this attempt is that all should learn how to swim. Considering the number of drowning cases, people should not hesitate, “ she said.
All three swimmers were given special training by Saji and his team for the past week. Everyone had taken proper safety measures before attempting. To ensure the trio’s safety, a group of expert swimmers followed them on boats. They started around 8am and successfully crossed the stretch around 8.45am. “Age is not a barrier for people to learn swimming. The event was organised to spread this message. Even last day, there drowning cases were reported in the state. This is also a message to the parents because children are involved in a majority of cases,” Saji said.
The Periyar stretch passes through Ernakulam Rural Police limit where 102 persons drowned last year. Of this, 77 were accidents while 25 were suicides. Of the accidental drowning incidents, 62 were male and 15 were female.
The Valassery River Swimming Club was started in 2010 by Aluva native Saji Valassery. He started the initiative by drawing lessons from the 2009 Thekkadi boat tragedy which claimed the lives of around 45 people. He has trained more than 5,700 people for free among which 700 are differently-abled or senior citizens. During this year’s summer vacation, 720 people learnt swimming from Saji and 130 of those could swim across the Periyar.