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Anger, recrimination as bodies arrive

OUTPOURING OF GRIEF:The funeral procession of twin sisters Rafiya and Safiya Ansari Mumtazin Pune on Tuesday.— Photo: Jignesh Mistry

OUTPOURING OF GRIEF:The funeral procession of twin sisters Rafiya and Safiya Ansari Mumtazin Pune on Tuesday.— Photo: Jignesh Mistry  

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How were students allowed to enter the beach waters despite the presence of teachers, ask parents

A pall of gloom descended on Abeda Inamdar College here as the bodies of 14 students who drowned at the Murud beach arrived on Tuesday. Amid disbelief and despondency, parents performed the final rites of the children. “It is yet to sink in that they are no more,” said a disconsolate Mumta Ansari, father of the twins Rafiya and Shafiya, both of whom died in the tragedy.

According to their neighbour Ashfaque Sheikh, Mr. Ansari, who runs a bakery in Shivajinagar, initially believed that his daughters were safe. “The news has shattered him ... both girls were very bright students,” said Mr. Sheikh.

A shocked silence envelops the home of Madki Saif Ahmad at Kondhwe Khurd. Saif’s body was the last to be retrieved by the search teams on Tuesday morning.

“The family is yet to come to terms with the tragedy. He was alive and well a few hours before the mishap … and then he was no more,” said a neighbour.

Anger, recrimination and confusion permeated the tense atmosphere on the Abeda Inamdar College campus on Monday night with fraught parents and relatives of the students angrily questioning the authorities on how the group could venture into the sea despite the presence of teachers in the picnic.

“I am told my brother risked his life to save other students ... he was fond of cricket ... he died a hero’s death,” said Parvez Shaikh, younger brother of Iftekar Shaikh who died. The tragedy has triggered a debate as to who was responsible for the mishap. While heart-broken parents have accused the college authorities of ‘negligence’ for failing to dissuade the students from entering the treacherous waters, the college authorities deflected the blame on lack of adequate security personnel on the beach.

“The tragedy might have been averted had there been enough lifeguards on the beach,” said P.A. Inamdar, president, of the Maharashtra Cosmopolitan Education Society which runs the college.

According to some locals, the students plunged into the waters recklessly, ignoring warnings. “The left corner of the Murud beach is extremely unsafe for those unfamiliar with the area. The students turned a deaf ear to repeated warnings. Six persons from Mumbai had drowned in 2014 at the very same spot,” said Murud Ranjankar, a resident of the area.

Bar on picnics

In the wake of the tragedy, the Deputy Director of Education has issued a circular prohibiting picnics around risky places such as beaches, rivers and forts.

“The unfortunate incident has compelled us to review picnics and tours bearing the safety of all students in mind. Hence, until further notice, we have come to the conclusion that no such tours shall be organised around any such places with a potential for disaster,” said Ramchandra Jadhav, Deputy Director of Education.

Body retrieved

The body of one more college student, who drowned in the Murud beach on Monday, was retrieved on Tuesday, taking the death toll to 14. Around 130 persons, including 115 students and more than 10 teachers and staffers, belonging to the Abeda Inamdar College here were on a picnic to the beach, 160 km from here.

A team of National Disaster Response Force personnel and the Coast Guard spotted the body of Saif Ahmed around 9 a.m., after a search operation that lasted over 19 hours.

Tragedy had struck the picnickers when around 20 students entered the waters and the sudden tide swept them away. Five girls were rescued by the Coast Guard and locals.

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Printable version | Dec 9, 2019 10:23:06 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/mumbai/news/anger-recrimination-as-bodies-arrive/article8186572.ece

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