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Murud beach tragedy: Time to put the spotlight on drowning deaths?

The body of a student missing in Monday's drowning tragedy at a beach in Murud was fished out of the waters on Tuesday, an official said.

The Indian Navy and Indian Coast Guard personnel had resumed their air and sea search for the missing student, Saif Madki, and after over three hours, located his body floating in the waters at Murud beach.

An Indian Navy Chetak helicopter and an interceptor speedboat had resumed search for Madki at daybreak, 15 hours after a massive tragedy struck, killing 13 other students, including 10 girls, of Pune's MCES Abeda Inamdar College.

Maharashtra Governor CV Rao and Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis expressed grief and deep shock over the tragedy and the state government announced an ex-gratia of Rs 2,00,000 to the families of each victim.

 Murud beach tragedy: Time to put the spotlight on drowning deaths?

Murud beach. Image courtesy: Twitter/@ibnlive

The Maharashtra government has good reason to be concerned about the deaths. Recent data from the National Crime Records Bureau states that Maharashtra has the highest number of deaths due to drowning in India, with as many as 4,822 fatalities in the year 2014. Further, according to data from the World Health Organization, Mumbai saw the second highest number of such deaths among major cities in India after Chennai. If the number of deaths from neighbouring Vasai-Virar is added to those from Mumbai, the number goes up to 263, the highest in the country.

What is also worrying is the age profile of those affected by such accidents. More than half of the people (50.6 percent) who died due to drowning in India are under 30 years of age. This percentage is even higher than that for traffic accidents (42.8 percent), which are known to be the cause of the deaths of young people.

Aged between 19 and 23 years, the victims who died in Murud were mostly students of BSc (Computer Science) of a minority-run institution in the Azam Campus of Pune's Camp area.

The people who died were: Rafiya Ansari and her sister Shafiya Ansari, Sumaiya Ansari, Sheefa Kazi, Supriya Pan, Sana Shaikh, Swapnali Salgar, Sajeed Choudhary, Iftekar Shaikh, Samreen Shaikh, Mohammed Ansari, Farin Sayyed and Rajlaxmi Pandugayala.

Although the exact cause of the mass-drowning which took place on Monday is unclear, local fisherfolk and villagers claimed that they had warned the students against venturing too far out in the sea waters. Their warning went unheeded.

However, in many of the deaths due to drowning, the people of fishing communities are naturally at risk. The WHO points that individuals engaged in fishing and children living near open water sources are particularly at risk in low-income countries, as reported by The International Business Times.

The issue is particularly important as drowning is the second biggest (9.4 percent) single cause of accidental deaths due to unnatural causes after traffic accidents (53.4percent), according to the NCRB data. However, such deaths appear to evoke much less public concern as compared to traffic accidents. One wonders whether the beach tragedy in Murud will change things, particularly in the state which is seen to be most affected by the problem.

With inputs from IANS

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Updated Date: Feb 02, 2016 15:00:54 IST