A stern warning went up across prominent tourist spots in Goa Friday at the start of the offseason: No selfies. Behind this stark warning sign and the red flags planted along with it at 24 hotspots are recent tourist deaths, and a video of one of them which went viral on June 17.
In the video, a girl and two boys from Tamil Nadu wait for the sun to rise as they sit on rocks below Fort Aguada, among one of Goa’s famous tourist sites. The video is without drama till a huge plunging wave — lifeguards refer to them as “the most greedy of all waves — is seen crashing on the rocks. Its receding tail effortlessly pulls one of the boys through a wide crevice.
“Their friend shooting the video was sitting right below another old sign that read danger,” says Ravi Shanker, CEO of Drishti Marine, the state-appointed lifeguard agency at 40 prominent beaches across Goa. “The need for red alerts now is urgent, he says, “The indifference to the law has started to cost heavy. It also has to do with a poor understanding of water and lack of awareness of a healthy beach culture.”
After the viral video, the state government, which is now closely watching the deaths have noted the accidental death reports of four incidents at the beginning of the offseason (May 31 to September 30) when the annual ban stands imposed across water dips.
Another five in a group of 14 from Maharashtra drowned in Calangute after they ventured early morning, into heavy currents in a no-swim zone, even as part of their group on the beach took photographs of the “revelry”. Another death on May 23, was a “selfie victim” who fell off the Vagator tower and was dragged under by the current.
The new flags and fresh warnings Friday went up at the most prominent tourist spots in Goa: Baga River, Dona Paula Jetty, Sinquerim Fort, Anjuna, Vagator, Morjim, Ashwem, Arambol, Kerim in the north. In the south at Agonda, Bogmalo, Hollant, Baina, Japanese Garden, Betul, Canaguinim, Palolem, Khola, Cabo De Rama, Polem, Galgibagh, Talpona and Rajbagh.
Locals, meanwhile, complain of being scolded by tourists when warned about deaths at tourist points. Lifeguards too have been beaten in few instances when they have requested huge groups not to trespass onto rocky surfaces or near the mouths of creeks with selfie sticks.
Of the 1,653 rescues in the last five years, 1,285 were Indians and 368 foreigners. This year alone, 73 Indians have been rescued at spots where there were ample warnings. In the last decade, records show 3,372 rescues against 53 drowning cases.
Ashwin Ghag, among the most seasoned lifeguards, says that the influence of liquor was the most common threat. “Then there are those non-swimmers who see a foreigner swim and follow suit. Or the frequent cases where boys want to impress girls and start swimming. It can get risky and we are now constantly on the watch for such behaviour now,” he says.
According to Jivba Dalvi, senior police inspector of Calangute beach, a tourist who got pulled into a rip current was swimming with eight others “for a photograph” when he got pulled in last weekend. “We are not saying do not take selfies, but avoid taking it close to the waters or risking near cliffs or slippery rocks as the currents keep pulling at urgent force. In the last video, you can see the boy could not even hold the rocks as it was too slippery due to the rains. That is how difficult the areas are, and the young keep venturing,” he says. The police now are also asking for a 24 hour lifeguard service as tourists have been seen venturing into waters even at early hours.