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Body floats, safety questions surface

Bhubaneswar, Dec. 19: Puri police yesterday recovered the body of a 26-year-old youth from the Baliapanda beach in Puri.

The youth, who hailed from Ranchi district in Jharkhand, had drowned in the sea on December 15 while taking a bath. The police identified the youth as Rajesh Ranjan Kumar of Kaburpul village in Jharkhand. Kumar, along with friend Amit Kumar, had come to Bhubaneswar to appear for a banking entrance exam. After the examination on December 15, they had gone to Puri.

After putting up in a hotel on Chakratirtha Road, the duo went to take a bath in the sea. While Rajesh was hit by a wave and swept away, lifeguards managed to save Amit in critical condition.

The lifeguards and fire brigade officials kept on searching for Rajesh, but could not find him. Even Rajesh’s family members had come to Puri after being informed about the incident.

The police said last morning they got a call about a body being spotted at Baliapanda sea beach. “We recovered the body and it was identified that of Rajesh Ranjan’s. We have registered an unnatural death case and have handed over the body to the family members of the deceased after post-mortem examination,’ said an officer of the sea beach police station.

Local residents alleged that despite incidents of drowning occurring at regular intervals, the district administration was yet to take effective steps to ensure the safety of visitors taking bath in the sea.

Following instructions from the state human rights commission, the administration had deployed 97 lifeguards along the sea beach from Digabareni Square to Swargdwar.

However, there are no lifeguards appointed at Chakratirth, Penthkata, Baliapanda and Sipasarubali by the district administration. Though some private lifeguards are on vigil along the beach at some places, there number is few.

Sources said that in the last four years, more than 60 people had drowned in Puri while taking bath. Most of the victims are students who do not follow the safety instructions. Last year the tourism department had instructed the hotels and tour operators to educate tourists about their safety while taking bath in the sea.

“We educate tourists about their safety, but some of them go to the areas where there are no lifeguards. We even instruct them to put on life jackets before getting into the water,” said a tourist officer.

Local residents and hoteliers demanded that the authorities should identify safe zones for bathing, deploy lifeguards throughout the beach and post security guards at watchtowers with binoculars to keep an eye those getting into the sea.

They also want fire brigade camp and first-aid centres on the sea beach. They have also argued for deploying speed boats with trained lifeguards to rescue drowning tourists.

Recently, the district authorities had installed close-circuit television cameras along the sea beach to keep tab on tourists.

However, they had to be removed as people opposed the move saying that the cameras were capturing pictures of women bathing in the sea.