Monday’s incident at Aksa beach, where two youngsters died and one is still missing, highlights the plight of the ill-equipped lifeguards along the three-kilometre stretch. They said despite the drowning incidents, the authorities turn a blind eye to their requests for rescue equipment.
Mohan Erande, who was among the four lifeguards at the beach on Monday afternoon, said more lives could have been saved if they were better equipped. “It is extremely difficult for us in situations like this. As we do not have a lifeboat, we have to swim as fast as possible to save those drowning. We could save just one person in this case. More lives could have been saved if we had a lifeboat,” he said.
“The youngsters drifted away from each other owing to the strong current. We could pull just one girl alive. She too was barely breathing. We wish we could do more,” Erande added.
A 26-year-old lifeguard, who is posted at the beach for seven years, said the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) has not provided them with equipment since he joined the team. “We have to make do with torn life jackets, old lifebuoys and do not have a lifeboat. This makes it very difficult for us to do our job.”
The Aksa beach stretch has only eight lifeguards, four lifeguards for every 10 hours. They said, given the number of people that visit the beach, this is not enough.
Another lifeguard, on condition of anonymity, said, “Some of our equipment, including the lifebuoys, is almost 10 years old. We barely have reinforcements and also the number of lifeguards is not sufficient for the beach.”
“Ours is a high-risk job. Our jobs are not permanent and we are paid very little. We have repeatedly highlighted our problems to the authorities. But nothing has been done so far,” he added.
Erande said he regrets not being able to save more lives. In a statement to the police he said, “We pulled one girl out of the water alive. By the time we got to the others - one boy and a girl - they were floating lifelessly,” he said. He added that the search is on for the fourth person in the group, who is feared drowned.
Survivor in ICU
The four lifeguards at Aksa beach were able to pull out 21-year-old Monika Fernandez alive. The Marol resident was rushed to the INS Hamla Hospital at Worli. After preliminary treatment, she was shifted to Bhagwati Hospital, Borivli. A relative told HT she is in the ICU.
Il-equipped to save lives: Lifeguards
The lifegoards at Aksa beach say more lives can be saved if the authorities provide them better equipment and increase their numbers.
No lifeboats: As they do not have a lifeboat, the lifeguards have to swim as fast as possible to save those drowning
Old lifebuoys: The lifeguards have to drag the people out of water as the lifebuoys do not keep them afloat
Torn lifejackets: The lives of the lifeguards are at risk as their lifejackets are torn. They said even a basic equipment like rope is not provided to them and they have to source it themselves
Inadequate numbers: There are eight lifeguards along the three-kilometer stretch for 24 hours. They say the numbers are not enough, given the popularity of the place