KARACHI: An extended family left for a popular beach for a picnic on Saturday morning, but little did they know their outing would turn into the worst tragedy for them. Twelve members of the family drowned in the Arabian Sea at Hawke’s Bay beach while saving each other from drowning.
Lifeguards have fished out the bodies of 12 victims – aged between 12 and 50 – but fear there could be more.
“We have retrieved 12 bodies thus far,” lifeguard Muhammad Asad told The Express Tribune. “There could possibly be more bodies as it was a big family.”
Asad said they called off the search for more bodies after darkness fell. Lifeguards will resume their search operation in the morning.
“The family belonged to the Nazimabad neighbourhood of Karachi. And they had come to Hawke’s Bay for a family picnic,” said Niaz Panwar, the SHO of Mauripur police station. “The incident was reported at 7pm.”
Seven more people drown in the sea
Hawkes’s Bay is a popular beach where sandbars give way to several-foot depths. According to secondhand information, some family members were swimming close to the shore when they slid into deeper waters. Others rushed to help and were overcome by the high tide in the sea.
Perhaps none of them could swim properly or the tide was too high for them to beat, according to SHO Panwar. “All the victims were related to each other, though they lived in different areas of the city,” he added. “It was a family get-together.”
The victims have been identified as Wahaj Shahzad, 28, Umair Jameel, 30, Ali Noor, 25, Saud Shoaib, 50, Taha Minhaj, 20, Filza Saud, 17, Atif Naseem, 30, Hamza, 12, Ebad Saud, 15, and Ali Zameer, 26. The bodies were first driven to Mauripur’s Murshid Hospital, from where they were shifted to Civil Hospital for medico-legal formalities.
Section 144 has been in place on beaches and in coastal areas of Sindh since June whereby swimming is not allowed in the sea which is rough during this time of the year. Messages are displayed at prominent places warning picnickers against wading into deeper waters.
However, picnickers routinely ignore these warnings at the peril of their lives. Nearly three dozen people – among them women and children – have drowned in the sea since the imposition of Section 144.
The police said the family had also been warned multiple times to stay away from the sea, but some of them ventured into deeper waters. “We asked them twice to stay away from the sea which was in high tide, but they evaded us to go back into the sea,” said SHO Panwar.
Surviving members of the family said the tragedy occurred when they were planning to return home. “After the daylong picnic we were packing up when two youngsters insisted on swimming one last time,” Israr Ahmed, a relative of the victims, told The Express Tribune.
“They were sucked into deeper waters by the high tide,” he added. “Ten other members of the family jumped into the sea to rescue the youth but were overcome by the monster waves.”
Shocked by the drowning, Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah sought a report from the home secretary on the incident. In a statement issued by his office, the chief minister asked how the family waded into the sea despite the imposition of Section 144.
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