Kollam: As many as 69 people have been claimed by theKollam beach in the past 10 years, says a board installed here last year. Three people, including a couple, died during the last March-April months. The life guards rescue more than three hundred people every year.
The Kollam beach is unlike the other beaches in the state. Though visibly calm, the waves are much stronger here. There is a depth of 4 m near the coast. People who fall due to the strong waves are carried away into the depths of the sea, say lifeguards P Suresh Babu and S Anil Kumar. Individuals find it difficult to get back on their feet once they lose their balance and fall. The Kollam beach is not the one for playing around in the shallow waters and taking bath, they assert.
The beach area has increased susbstantially after a link road was built from Kochupilammoodu bridge to the harbour. Four lifeguards are posted in the 1.5-km stretch.
Though a rope has been tied along with a red flag to warn people from entering the sea, visitors enter anyways. If people fall into danger near the lifeguard, they can be easily rescued. However, some of the more daring visitors go beyond the reach of lifeguards. Some enter the water at nights in the torch light of their cell phones.
Whistle for life
The lifeguards are equipped with only whistles to warn tourists of the impending danger. The only mike in their possession was damaged a month earlier. Some pick up squabbles with lifeguards for warning them against entering the sea. Last week, some people got into an altercation with a group of cops, including the SI.
The beach gets really crowded on holidays and the number of visitors goes up to ten thousand. It is a challenging task to rescue those who are caught in the sea. It is difficult to hold on to people as strong waves lash upon them. The lifeguards have to hold on to people till the strong waves subside to bring them back to the land. However, if there is a Coast Guard boat nearby, the victims can be easily taken to it, the lifeguards point out.
These lifeguards literally save people from the jaws of death. Eight lifeguards work in two shifts at the Kollam beach. Some of them have been working for 21 years. Though they have rescued thousands of people, authorities pay little heed to the wellbeing of lifeguards. They neither have insurance cover nor any other benefits, including ESI and PF. A meagre daily income is all they earn for saving hundreds of lives.
Night duty too
It is nearly impossible to carry out rescue operations once it gets dark. Even the Coast Guard does not carry out rescue ops at night. However at the Kollam beach, a lifeguard’s shift timing has been extended to 9 pm. The night shift was implemented after a couple were killed in March. There is no lifeguard service during the night in any of the other beaches in Kerala.