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Representative image

That sinking feeling strikes again; Ernakulam district reports 27 drownings in April

MIshaps occur when youngsters venture into unfamiliar waters, says fire and rescue officer

KOCHI: Residents of Randarkara in Muvattupuzha are still grappling with the tragic loss of 63-year-old Amina and her granddaughters, Farha Fathima, 14, and Hana, 10, who drowned in the Kothayar river in Muvattupuzha on April 5. The children, they recall, often swam across the very same waters with ease.

Cases like these are on the rise in the district, where at least 27 drownings have been reported since April 1. Notably, of these 27, at least 16 were below the age of 30. Six were school-going children.

Thirteen drownings took place in the Periyar and waterbodies linked to it. The Muvattupuzha river and its streams saw eight incidents.

Three persons died after drowning in other waterbodies such as ponds. Two died after falling into wells in their houses. One drowned in the sea off Kuzhuppilly.

Abdul Khader Ajimon, councillor of Muvattupuzha municipality’s Randarkara ward, said that the deaths of Amina and her two granddaughters were shocking. They had headed to the river for a bath, as usual. On seeing Amina in distress, people rushed to help. Hana and Farha were also pulled out. Amina and Farha were declared dead on arrival at a nearby hospital. Hana succumbed two days later.

“The accident took place at the river stretch where people regularly bathe. Amina and the children knew swimming very well. They used to effortlessly swim across the river even during the monsoon season. People are still wondering about what went wrong,” said Abdul.

While the Randarkara case remains a mystery, mishaps mostly occur when youngsters venture into unfamiliar waters in excitement, noted District Fire & Rescue Officer K Harikumar. “Drownings involving youngsters rise during the summer holidays. The undercurrents in rivers are unpredictable. Knowing the basics of swimming alone might not suffice,” he said.

“There will be strong undercurrents even when the water level appears low during the summer. Also, pits develop at some portions of the river. People should not venture into rivers or other waterbodies without proper precautions.”

Harikumar added that some of the drownings reported were cases of suicide. Venturing into waterbodies under the influence of alcohol also caused some accidents. “We are conducting awareness programmes across the district,” he said.

Popular swimming coach Saji Valasseril, known for training over 10,000 people for free in the Periyar waters Aluva since 2010, stressed that Kerala – which has 44 rivers, several backwaters, and a long shoreline – should include swimming in the school curriculum.

“A majority of people in Kerala do not know swimming. Drownings can be reduced by teaching students to swim from a young age. Students should be taught to swim in rivers,” he said.

6-year-old girl drowns in pool, youth dies in brook

A six-year-old girl named Jennifer, daughter of Shebin Sacariya, drowned in the swimming pool of the PVS Apartment in Desom, Aluva, on Monday. She is said to have slipped and fallen into the pool while playing with friends on the first floor at about 7pm. Jenifer was rushed to a private hospital in Aluva, but was declared dead on arrival. The Chengamanad police have registered a case of unnatural death and initiated an investigation. The girl’s body was handed over to relatives after the autopsy on Tuesday. In the second incident, Dibin, 24, son of Davis, Pereppadan House, Ayyampuzha, drowned in the Kothayi brook in Amalapuram. He went missing while bathing with a friend around 11:30 pm. After an hour-long search, he was found and taken to a private hospital in Angamaly, where he was declared dead. The Angamaly police have launched a probe into the incident.

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