After stingray attack, devotees barred from entering water

Sep 12, 2013, 06:19 IST | Chetna Yerunkar and Sujit Mahamulkar

Idols will have to be handed over to lifeguards for immersion and all devotees have been asked to wear gumboots

In the wake of 76 devotees being bitten by stingrays at Girgaum Chowpatty, the civic body officials are now leaving no stone unturned to ensure that such an incident does not occur in the future. Following the incident, BMC authorities have decided to stop Ganesha devotees from entering the sea to immerse the idols and instead handover their deities to lifeguards for immersion. They are also asking devotees to wear gumboots while entering the waters.

Thousands of devotees flocked to Girgaum Chowpatty on Tuesday to bid farewell to Lord Ganesha. However, many of them were stung and a mass panic broke out after the incident. Pic/Atul Kamble

On Tuesday evening, around 76 were wheeled into different city hospitals writhing in agony after stingrays at Girgaum Chowpatty stung them (‘Visarjan horror: Stingrays attack devotees at Chowpatty’). All of the victims were given painkillers and were stabilised following the incident. However, the event has now made people fearful of entering the waters.

And in an attempt to allay the fears of Mumbaikars, the BMC has promised to step up and ensure better safety at the immersion sites. Authorities have decided that if devotees choose to enter the waters, they will have to be checked at the entry point and will also have to wear gumboots. Additionally, they will be increasing the floating platforms and a team of four doctors with a cardiac and normal ambulance would be present at the beach on the days of immersion.

An official further added that extra floodlights would be installed so as to provide better vision and that no person would be allowed to consume alcohol and enter the premises. K Kshirsagar, deputy municipal commissioner, in-charge of immersions, said, “While we are doing all that we can, even followers need to take precautionary measures. We are going to stop people from entering the water. Lifeguards with boating facilities will be provided to immerse the idols.”

Even as the authorities took extra precautionary measures, residents of South Mumbai rued the fact that they were more prone to such risks, as there were no artificial ponds in the area where they could safely immerse the deities. The BMC has built only four artificial ponds in central Mumbai in areas around Dadar, Worli and Wadala. Devotees opined that if there were other artificial ponds, then the authorities wouldn’t have to take all these extra precautions.

Experts speak
VD Deshmukh, principal scientist, Centre for Marine Fisheries institute, said, “We visited the spot and primary studies showed that the stingrays might have attacked after they were stamped on. There are chances that such incidents could occur again. Hence, we have been requested by the CM to visit Chowpatty every day till the last day of immersion and inform the civic body authorities of the situation.”

Patients stable
The final toll of the stingray attack at Girgaum Chowpatty beach on Tuesday evening was 76 people who were rushed to three different nearby hospitals from 6.30 pm onwards. These hospitals saw a flurry of activities after patients who sustained foot and ankle injuries had to be admitted for further treatment. One patient was admitted to JJ Hospital. All 38 patients who were admitted to Nair Hospital were discharged on Wednesday morning. Meanwhile, at GT Hospital, out of the 31 patients, 21 patients were discharged while six are still under observation and two took discharge against medical advice. - Inputs by Anuradha Varanasi

Approx number of Ganesha idols that were immersed at Girgaum Chowpatty yesterday

Number of Ganesha idols that were immersed at Girgaum Chowpatty last year

The BMC should give us some options where we can immerse the idols apart from just precautions. There should be artificial ponds for household ganpatis. If ponds were made available, then these many injuries wouldn’t have taken place. - Pradeep Velankar, resident of Girgaum

Wearing gumboots while immersing the idol is not something that we would want to do and the boats are not a good option as we want to immerse it ourselves. The authorities should check on other things like creating a pond, which will be helpful. - Suresh Mathur, resident of Khetwadi

This is a very sad incident and we will have to suffer as we have been visiting Chowpatty for many years. But now that we know how unsafe it is, we won’t go as often as we did in the past. This incident has spoiled the festival for us. - A Shetye, resident of Charni road

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