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BMC’s Fire Department to boost beach safety equipment

Of the 15 drownings recorded off Mumbai’s beaches since June,as many as eight occurred at the popular Juhu beach — believed to be one of the safer beaches in the city.

Written by Alison Saldanha | Mumbai | Published: July 3, 2012 5:23:21 am

Of the 15 drownings recorded off Mumbai’s beaches since June,as many as eight occurred at the popular Juhu beach — believed to be one of the safer beaches in the city. According to data from the BMC’s Fire Department,of the nine fatal cases among these,six persons drowned off Juhu. The other three drowned off beaches near Dadar and Haji Ali. While 22 people were rescued at different beaches across the city,10 were rescued at Juhu. On Sunday,three teens drowned at Juhu beach.

“We will not declare any beach unsafe but we will review the danger spots at various beaches and see what parts require official sanction to be cordoned off,” said Chief Fire Officer Suhas Joshi. “We cannot define a beach as dangerous based on the number of drowning cases alone,” he said.

In February 2011,former Chief Fire Officer Uday Tatkare filed an affidavit in the Bombay High Court stating that of the eight beaches open to the public,only Juhu and Girgaum Chowpatty are safe. The affidavit also stated that the work of setting up watch towers and providing safety nets has not been carried out by the state.

In view of the recent spate of drownings,the department has now decided to increase its beach safety equipment. “We have a sufficient budget this year and will introduce watch towers,jet skis and other life-saving equipment. At present,we use rescue tubes,life jackets,ring buoys,kayaks etc but none of these can function during the high tide,” said Deputy Fire Officer P Rahangdale.

In two separate incidents on Sunday,three teenagers drowned at Juhu Beach,Andheri. While one body was recovered around 8 pm,the other two were recovered around 2 am and 6 am the next day. Rahangdale added that an extra ambulance will now be stationed close to Silver beach. “Our ambulance was stationed three to four metres from the spot and couldn’t move in the sand,” he said.

According to Neville Davids of the volunteer group Juhu Lifeguards Association,that aided rescue operations on Sunday,Silver beach has been left unguarded since May. “We were unaware that the NGO in-charge of patrolling the area halted operations. It was only when we visited the K-West ward office on Friday that we realised this. We guard the area from Santacruz Koliwada to Tulip Star Hotel. We wrote a letter to the authorities the same day seeking extension of our jurisdiction,but in the meantime this happened,” said Davids.

“At Gorai and Aksa,the local lifeguard groups give us tremendous support but at Juhu it is so crowded that it does not make a difference,people just don’t listen. Worse,drunk visitors enter the sea,increasing their risk of drowning,” said Rahangdale.

At present,35 lifeguards with two extras on stand by are stationed across six beaches. They are complemented by the Fire Brigade’s flood-relief teams,which are brought in on the weekends at crowded beaches and during high tide or rough weather conditions.

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