KARACHI - At least 25 bathers drowned in rough seas off Karachi during Eid days while Pakistan Navy rescuers were still searching for three others missing, officials said Thursday.

The drowned defied a ban on swimming during the monsoon season placed by Sindh government a couple of months ago. They were among thousands of those who had taken to the beaches to celebrate the Eidul Fitr, which began on Tuesday and continued until Friday.

Senior police officer Ibadat Nisar said police discovered some bodies washed up at the upscale Clifton beach on Wednesday evening, which prompted a wider search operation that was suspended overnight but resumed Thursday.

“We started talking to picnickers on the beach and realised that the number of people who drowned was much higher than we thought, people whom we talked to told us about their friends or relatives who had gone missing while swimming,” he said.

Shoaib Ahmed Siddiqui, the city’s top administrator confirmed the deaths, expressing fears it might increase. “The coastal area is very long and we cannot say how many people might be still missing – let’s hope the number is not very big.”

Some citizens alleged that the authorities did not take any precautionary measure on the occasion and people were free to rush to the costal belt to enjoy the Eid holidays. They said that many officials of the authorities concerned have gone to their hometowns to celebrate the occasion, creating a dearth of manpower.

Sources said the administration woken up to the tragedy when the death toll had already reached to a dozen while the high ups were trying to manage things through their cell phones. The costal belt of at least 130 kilometres remains without lifeguards while law enforcers did not bother to implement Section 144, imposed on June 6, at beaches for bathers during the months of rough sea.

Rescuers of local welfare organisations took the initiative on Wednesday and managed to recover at least 12 bodies while Pakistan Navy started its operation in early hours of Thursday and found eleven more bodies. Several ambulances were seen on the beach where the relatives of some of the missing anxiously awaiting word of their loved ones.

Clifton ASP Dr Asad told that nobody contacted or complained to police about the drowning of their loved ones and when they were informed they immediately reached on the beach and found the first body at 5:30pm on Wednesday. Karachi Commissioner Shoaib Ahmed Siddiqui told The Nation on Thursday evening that 23 bodies had so far been recovered – 21 from Sea View and two from Hawks Bay. “Eleven bodies were recovered on Wednesday and 12 on Thursday, Siddiqui said.

The navy special divers backed by sea king helicopters were continuing the operation on Thursday while the MSA and PCG had stepped back showing their inability to carry on the rescue operation in rough sea and saying that it does not come in their jurisdiction. The private rescuers had also been stopped from going into the water because of the rough sea and to avoid any further mishaps.

President Mamnoon Hussain and Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on Thursday expressed their grief over the loss of lives. Sindh Governor Dr Ishratul Ebad Khan took notice and directed the authorities to facilitate the grieving families.