Angry residents and relatives of the college girl and a local resident feared to have drowned at Bandra Bandstand are now demanding that the fire brigade deploy lifeguards there. This is hardly the first time such demands are being made, but the fire department maintains it cannot man the entire coastline, as many seaside spots have rocky terrain and are unsafe even for lifeguards. Instead, fire officials want the police to increase patrolling at these spots and prevent people from entering the water.
A search was on late into the night for a college girl and a local resident feared to have drowned at Bandra Bandstand on Saturday. Like many others, the girl was taking selfies with her friends when they fell in the water. The rocky terrain at such spots is one of the reasons the fire brigade is unwilling to deploy lifeguards there. Pic/Onkar Devlekar
Currently, the fire brigade, through its beach safety and flood rescue teams, maintains a presence at six important beaches in the city — Girgaum, Dadar, Versova, Juhu, Aksa and Gorai. These are full-fledged beaches recognised by the state government and hence it is the duty of the fire brigade to have lifeguards there at all times. Each of these beaches is manned by two lifeguards from the fire department, along with three to four contractual lifeguards from private agencies or NGOs. In all, there are 13 permanent and 28 contractual lifeguards in the city.
Spots like Marve beach and Bandra Bandstand have also witnessed tragic accidents, but do not qualify as beaches due to their rocky terrain. Last year, a group of four boys had drowned at Marve beach.
“None of these are beaches and, hence, we cannot man them. That way, we would have to man the entire coastline of Mumbai,” said P S Rahangdale, chief fire officer of the Mumbai fire brigade.
“Many of these places have rocky terrain. Even if we do employ some lifeguards at these places, they will not be able to help and might end up drowning themselves. Therefore, it is the police’s job to increase patrolling at such places and make sure people are not allowed to step into the waters,” he added.
DCP Dhananjay Kulkarni, spokesperson of Mumbai Police said, “We have our guards on Bandstand and several important locations in the city, even Marve. They keep patrolling the area 24x7.”
S D Sawant, additional divisional fire officer (beach safety) echoed the CFO’s statement. “We need to understand that the ocean currents are the strongest at Gorai, Versova and even Dadar. At high tide, there is a greater risk of drowning for even the most trained swimmers. Girgaum is a relatively safer beach. We man these beaches despite being short-staffed. What will a lifeguard do in rocky terrain such as Bandstand? Even he won’t be able to save anyone if his foot gets stuck in a crevice. We also have to think of the safety of our own men.”
Sawant insisted that the focus should be on greater awareness among people against venturing into dangerous waters at high tide.
The fire brigade had last month invited bids to install a watch tower at each of the six designated beaches. However, the tender received no response. Bids will now be re-invited, and the brigade hopes to procure and install the towers before monsoon.