Death trap

241 lives lost in sea beaches in 18 years


Anisul Islam Noor :
At least 241people, mostly youths and children, died in the offshore of Cox’s Bazar, St. Martin and Patenga sea beaches in last 18 years since 1996, lifeguard and local administration sources have said.
In a recent mishap, eight people including six students of Ahsanullah University died in the offshore of Cox’s Bazar and St. Martin sea beach.
According to local lifeguard sources, 135 death incidents occurred in Cox’s Bazar, 99 in Patenga and 17 in St. Martin. Though some lifeguards have been found working in the Cox’s Bazar and Patenga sea beach, there is no arrangement of lifeguard or coast guard to look after the tourists at St. Martin’s Island.
The reasons behind the deaths can be attributed to defiance of safety rules and falling into the trap of quick sands, locally known as ‘Chora Bali’.
Mostafa Kamal, the in-charge of Yasir Life Guard, a private agency that conducts rescue operations at the beach, said that they had alone recovered 135 bodies and have saved 1,125 lives from drowning in the last 17 years.
The reasons behind the deaths can be attributed to defiance of safety rules and falling into the trap of quick sands, locally known as ‘Chora Bali’.
The incidents of sinking in the sea, however, have decreased in the last five years due to strengthening of the vigilance by the administration. Members of the lifeguard agencies have rescued over 3,500 people during the period from the sea. “Most of the victims are young and university students who, ignoring the safety regulations jumped into the sea, even during ebb tide,” Chairman of Beach Management Committee and District Magistrate Mohammad Gias Uddin Ahmed told The New Nation yesterday.
He said, the sea beach vigilance has been strengthened with two private lifeguard agencies namely Yasir Life Guard and Green Cox. Last year, only one person was the victim of drowning, who went there from capital Dhaka.
Besides, steps have been taken to illuminate beach at night and to issue warning through loudspeaker and mega speaker so that the visitors become cautious.
“We always discourage tourists not to swim in the sea during ebb-tide. But many of them do not bother about it and fall into the death trap,” the district magistrate said, adding that steps had been taken to erect sea safety net in the beach but due to high tide in sea the plan was jeopardized in the early nineties.
Parjatan Real Estate Association (PREA) has recently proposed to the district administration that they would erect the safety net provided the association is given the responsibility. It (PREA) has expressed its willingness to build the 5-km long net in the shallow water of seashore between Kolatoli and Jautolar crossing at its own cost.
“We have received the proposal and we will discuss the matter in the next meeting of beach management committee scheduled to be held next month,” Gias Uddin said.
 “The net would strengthen the safety of the beach and woo more tourists, including those who are shy to swim in sea water due to panic. He also said he would be happy to implement the project before the sea becomes rough by the month of May. The youths are the main problem, he said, echoing the district magistrate Gias Uddin, who said that the youths should check their temptation and slowly move to the sea water instead of becoming hurry.
Chairman of Green Delta Housing Limited Mohammad Nurul Amin said the government should look for public private partnership to ensure better safety in Cox’s Bazar and other sea beach points like Inani, Himchari, Teknaf and Saint Martin Island. He said the number of tourists would grow further if they feel secured in terms of everything during their travel to greater Cox’s Bazar.
Life jacket and air tube should be made mandatory while swimming in the sea, said Omar Sultan, president of hotel-motel-guest house owners association.
He also said that the beach police could be trained up with the help of Bangladesh Navy to guard the seashore and rescue people in danger.