Mixed numbers were reported in the Ravi River boat capsizing incident on February 3 near Nankana Sahib, Punjab, with some witnesses claiming there were 150 people on-board the ferry, and others declaring there were around 70 people. The ferry was running a usual route from Said Wala to Okara but did not reach its destination. Officials offered that the ferry was overloaded but a verified report must first be furnished before we regard initial theories as facts. While we wait for an official report, there are several take-home points from this incident that can be of imperative help in the future.
Although some victims successfully swam to shore, we would not expect the majority to have been able to keep themselves afloat and alive in the water without support. This is because it is not commonplace here that one take formal swimming classes. Whether it is that common sense eludes people or that formal swimming classes are unobtainable, it would behoove us as a people to consider making swimming a regular part of school curriculae. The more relevant aspect in this tragedy, however, is the lack of standard safety measures, such as the availability and enforced use of life jackets. Mankind is foolish in that it often puts safety measures into place only after tragedy strikes. Here, though, those responsible for creating, implementing, and enforcing safety measures completely neglect their duties even after disaster strikes.
The search continues at the time of writing, but it will soon end. We cannot only leave things to the will of a higher being. It is time we understood the importance of establishing safety protocols and emergency procedures. An appropriate emergency procedure may have provided us with accurate information about this incident instead of the jumbled information that was issued. It must be realised that family members were lost with their loved ones most likely in a state of panic and despair. In the future, the emergency protocol should incorporate a policy of accurate, clear and honest communication with the public.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 4th, 2017.
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