KARACHI - At least 12 members of a family, including a woman and children, drowned while taking a bath in the sea in the Hawks Bay area on Saturday evening.

Drowning incidents at different beaches in Karachi have become a routine. At least 30 people, including women and children, have lost their lives in various drowning incidents since June this year despite a ban on bathing in the sea.

Though the victims belonged to different localities of Karachi, they had arrived from the Nazimabad area of District Central of Karachi by a minibus. The incident took place late in the Saturday evening when the family was preparing to return home after a daylong trip to the beach.

Their relatives said that initially two members of the family had drowned. The rest drowned while trying to rescue their near and dear ones. “Nearly 20 people jumped into the sea to rescue the two drowning family members and only 10 of them returned. They were injured as tides were high and there were rocks on the beach,” said one of the relatives, Afaq Ahmed. “The remaining 10 drowned and died.”

Police said the drowning victims were related to each other, adding that their bodies had been retrieved. The rescuers first shifted the bodies to the nearby Murshid Hospital and later to Civil Hospital, Karachi before handing them over to their families for burial.

Lifeguards said that youth as well as families were coming to the beach for picnic despite a ban. “We are already short of staff. Just four to six lifeguards cannot control hundreds of stubborn people at a time,” said lifeguard Ashfaq Alam. “This has not happened for the first time; this happens almost on every holiday or occasion. The crowd usually does not agree to follow our instructions. Instead of following our instructions, they play with us,” he said.

The victims were later 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). Their bodies were handed over to their families late on Saturday night.

Mauripur SHO Niaz Panwar said that authorities had placed banners at important places at various beaches, warning people against bathing in the sea but people do not heed these warnings. “Everyone knows that sea is high due to monsoon season and the government has imposed a ban on bathing. Karachiites should take the warnings seriously,” he said.

Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah has taken notice of the incident and sought a report from the home secretary. In a statement issued by Chief Minister’s House, Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah questioned effectiveness of imposition of Section 144 on sea bathing and presence of lifeguards and police personnel at the beach.  Provincial Home Minister Sohail Anwar Siyal also took notice of the incident and asked the additional inspector general of police to submit a report on the incident after an inquiry.

Sindh Police Inspector General Allah Dino Khowaja also sought a report from the deputy inspector general for District West on the incident as well as on rescue efforts.

Karachi Mayor Wasim Akhtar expressed sorrow over the incident. He said the government could not implement the ban on swimming and sea bathing. “Thirty lifeguards performing duties at the time of the incident tried to rescue the drowning people, but unfortunately they were stuck in high tides,” he said. He asked people to take care of their children and not visit the sea during ban on bathing.