Watery graves during avurudu for the heedless and the intoxicated

  • Avoid swimming in unfamiliar locations and after liquor even if you are an excellent swimmer, says coroner
By Mirudhula Thambiah

At least 20 instances of drowning were reported during the past two weeks, most of which occurred during the avurudu period, with four in Avissawella and three in Padhiya palalla, Badulla, and most of the victims from Colombo.

Colombo City Coroner, Edward Ahangama told the Sunday Times, that most of the drowning was due to negligence under intoxication during the avurudu season. “Recently the sluice gates of the reservoirs were opened, as they were on the verge of overflowing, causing a steep rise in water levels in the inland waterways with strong currents. So, if people swim in these types of inland waters, they would drown” he said.

Warning signs are not displayed at all the locations. Therefore, the public should be more vigilant when approaching unknown waters, while local authorities should place warning signs, Mr. Ahangama revealed.

“If people see warning signs, they should refrain from swimming in those places. In spite of the warning signs and the cautioning by the residents, sometimes people attempt to swim, which is very risky” he said

“It’s very dangerous for people to swim in isolated places, as urgent help in an emergency, will not be immediately forthcoming,” he added. The Colombo Coroner was of the view that those under the influence of liquor should never attempt to swim, even if they are excellent swimmers.

Commenting on teens living in congested areas, the coroner said they engage in football and cricket matches on the seashore and go sea-bathing after the games, when they are tired, and end up drowning.

“Most instances of drowning in rural areas occur during holiday trips, especially during the festival season. When people go on trips to villages, they are not familiar with waterways, where certain areas are prohibitive for swimming”, Mr. Ahangama said. S.N.N. Safreen (26), N. Sashitharan (23), M.S.M. Irshand (23) and M.N.M. Najeeb (24), who drowned in the Karanawita Ela in Dehiowita, Avissawella on April 14, were from Hulftsdorp.

Medical Officer- Avissawella Hospital, Dr. Rasangika Kulasiri said that death was due to drowning in rough waters covering rocky outcrops, resulting in wounds on their heads and other body parts.
“The victims went to swim even after being warned by the locals of the area, that the spot was dangerous.” she said.

Udayangika Maduwanthi Fernando (12) from Kawdana, Dehiwala, Sakila Anuruddha Perera (18) from Dehiwala and Isuru Siri Kumara(14) from Padiyapelella drowned while swimming at Miniyamba, Beliul Oya in Padiyapelella, on April 18. A 13-year-old Samanera from Matara, Sunandha Thera and his mother, Kusumalatha Dahanayake drowned while bathing in a lake in the Suriyaweva area.

Yugan Sabaratnam, 18, an Advanced Level student from the Namahal Vidyalaya in Batticaloa from Vavunatheevu, Batticaloa drowned while bathing in the Menik Ganga in Kataragama, on April 20.
Meanwhile, Director General- Sri Lanka Coastguard Dept (SLCG), Rear Admiral Daya Darmapriya said that carelessness was the main reason for the recently reported large number of drowning incidents.
Swimming in unknown waters is one of the main causes for drowning,” he said.

He said the SLCG had lifesaving awareness programmes at Hambantota and Moneragala during the avurudu, but will not be deploying lifesaving units during the Vesak season, for lack of lifesaving cadres.
“All the cadres have been sent to the north to concentrate on the fishermen issues. Therefore, we will not be able to conduct awareness programmes” he said.

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