Mumbai lifeguards to the rescue? Not quite, staff crunch and lack of vehicles hamper them

The increase in the number of visitors to Juhu beach in summer is likely to hamper rescue efforts by already-stretched lifeguards.

mumbai Updated: May 15, 2017 09:54 IST
Jayprakash S Naidu
Jayprakash S Naidu
Hindustan Times
Juhu beach,Santacruz,Mumbai
With temperatures soaring, more people are flocking to the popular Juhu beach at Santacruz (West) to beat the heat.(HT)

With temperatures soaring, more people are flocking to the popular Juhu beach at Santacruz (West) to beat the heat. The increase in the number of visitors is likely to hamper rescue efforts by lifeguards, who are already battling a manpower crunch and a lack of patrolling vehicles to man the 4.5-km stretch.

The number of lifeguards at Juhu dwindled to just seven from 10, with two of them working in the morning shift from 7am to 3pm and the rest working in the second shift from 2pm to 10pm.They man the beach on foot.

Apart from adequate manpower, lifeguards also need a patrolling vehicle, a jet ski and other equipment. They do not have annual training or fitness sessions, said a lifeguard. Even a temporary watch tower constructed at the beach is wobbly and tilted. Authorities said it will be repaired soon.

The lifeguards complained that the lack of a patrolling vehicle and a watercraft have affected their response time.

They said that most of the time they are informed about the incident when a person has already drowned.

Most of the drowning cases took place between the main beach and the ISKCON temple end, a 2-km stretch.

At 2.30pm on Sunday, a 28-year-old man and a 17-year-old boy from Goregaon (East) were saved from drowning. They were having fun in the water along with their friends despite being warned about the low tide. When they started drowning, the lifeguards saved their lives.

The lifeguards saved 46 people last year.

Most of the lifeguards are employed either on contract or permanent basis through the fire brigade department of the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation. Those who are permanent earn around Rs25,000 a month, depending on their experience while contractual employees earn a monthly income of Rs12,000-Rs15,000.

80 more to be hired to tide over rescue woes

If everything goes as planned, the six beaches in Mumbai — Juhu, Versova, Girgaum, Dadar, Aksa and Goraiwill — will have 80 more lifeguards by this monsoon, said the fire brigade department, which works under the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation.

The fire department has floated tenders to rope in a service provider, which will hire the lifeguards.

“The service provider will provide trained and qualified lifeguards to us. It has to provide them with basic equipment. We will also chip in with whatever equipment we have at our disposal. Also there will be new watch towers at each beach,” said Prabhat Rahangdale, chief of fire department.

“Last year, we saved 200 people from drowning. Parents need to be more cautious as youngsters bunk schools and colleges to venture into the sea,” he said.

“Most of the people who drowned were warned about the danger. They come to celebrate birthdays, etc, get drunk and wade deep into the waters. Most of the drowning cases are related to alcohol consumption,” another fire official said.

The official added that it was not practical to have a patrolling vehicle at the overcrowed Juhu beach as it would take time to reach the spot.

The only way fatalities can be reduced is when people pay heed to our warnings, added the officials.

“If we consider how swiftly downing kills a person — less than a minute — then we need to have hundreds of lifeguards for thousands of people,” said an official.

“Police need to patrol beaches. The water at these beaches is very dirty and not fit for bathing. Aksa and Gorai are most dangerous owing to quicksand,” the official said.

First Published: May 15, 2017 09:53 IST