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Turbulent Puri sea unsafe for bathers
- Death of 21 people this year rings alarm bells, authorities ask tourists to take help of nolias
Tourists take a dip in the sea in Puri. Picture by Sarat Patra

Bhubaneswar, Nov. 14: The death of nine tourists while bathing in Puri in the past one month has raised questions about the security of tourists.

Worried over the rising number of drowning cases, the tourism department has issued letters to all hoteliers in Puri to educate tourists about safety measures to be taken while bathing.

Yesterday, three women tourists were drowned while bathing in the sea.

Tourism officer Bijay Chandra Jena said: “We have asked the hoteliers to put up signboards asking tourists to seek the help of the nolias (local fishermen engaged to guide tourists in the sea) while taking a bath. They can also use life jackets distributed for free on the beach.”

Officials admitted that the stretch of the sea between Konark and Puri has been witnessing high tides since the tsunami hit the southeast coast of India in 2004. High tides had also become a regular feature in Gopalpur.

“The sea current is particularly strong during full moon and new moon. People should be careful while taking venturing into the sea,” said Jagannath Bastia, president of the Beach Protection Council of Odisha.

The tourism department sources said 45 people had drowned in Puri during the past three years. While 20 deaths were reported in 2009, four cases occurred in 2010. This year, 21 people have drowned till now. Out of them, 14 were students.

“Everyone should be careful while going for a bath. They should not venture deep into the sea without the help of nolias,” said a tourism department official.

Bastia said despite repeated request from the council, the state government was yet to take any firm measure to protect tourists coming to Puri. “Nearly 80 per cent of the beach area is unlit. Our demand to provide special uniforms to the nolias engaged in assisting tourists is yet to be conceded,” he added.

Bastia further said at least another 150 people should be recruited for assisting tourists and eight tourist assistance centres should be opened on the beach to keep a watch on the movement of tourists.

However, the state government officials denied any laxity on their part. “Ninety-four home guards have already been engaged to protect tourists. The tourism department’s proposal to set up 12 more watchtowers on the sea beach will be given clearance,” said a senior government official.

The tourism department has put up 22 signboards in four languages instructing tourists on safety measures on the beach.

Worried over the rising number of deaths, Krushna Chandra Nishang, a retired defence official, has set up an NGO, Swati, to assist tourists. “Our organisation is providing life-jackets free of cost to the people coming for a bath,” he said, adding that these jackets were now being distributed near Swargadwar.

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