LAHORE - Two boys drowned in the River Ravi near Bara Dari Monday afternoon, police said.

Jia Musa residents, Bilal, 10, and Samon Samuel, 14, were swimming when they disappeared in the deep waters. Residents alerted the Punjab Emergency Service (Rescue-1122) after they came to know about the tragedy. The rescue teams and divers launched the operation to retrieve the bodies but there was no success till evening.

“The Water Rescue Teams will resume the search operation Tuesday morning. The rescuers had to suspend the operation because of bad light and poor weather conditions,” Jam Sajjad Hussain, a spokesman for the Rescue-1122 said.

The families of both the children from Shahdara reached the spot, where they were helplessly watching the rescue operations. The mothers were seen crying and screaming when the divers were searching the missing boys who were friends.

Hundreds of people including woman and children also reached the riverbank as the entire locality sank into shock. People living along the two sides of the river bank have been alerted to inform the police about any boy sighted by them.

Though the authorities have banned bathing in the River Ravi and at some identified spots at the Lahore Canal but there is no one to enforce the directives. Official sources said that the government is unable to take action against the violators as people in great number are flocking to rivers and canals to beat the heat amid power breakdowns.

“During the last eight years, at least 2337 people have drowned in canals and rivers across the populous Punjab province as such cases shoot up in the summer season,” according to the statistics complied by the Punjab Emergency Service.

Dr Rizwan Naseer, Chief of the Punjab Emergency Service, says that overall 2,823 persons have lost their lives during 4,906 emergencies of drowning cases related to canals, rivers, sewerage drains, floods and others during the last seven to eight years. Out of total 7,101 victims, Rescue 1122 provided first aid to 2,744 victims and shifted 1,463 to different hospitals for treatment.

According to the Director General of the Rescue-1122, they have envisaged the concept of “saving lives” by rescuing over 2.5 million emergency victims since the inception of Punjab Emergency Service. “We almost have achieved this target and now we are moving towards “changing minds” by creating awareness among the general public about the prevention of emergencies. The Community Safety Wing of Rescue 1122 is imparting training to community members in all districts of the Punjab for establishment of safer communities in Pakistan through socially responsible citizens.

The statistics further reveals that at least 513 persons drowned while they were swimming in different rivers of the Punjab during the last seven years. At least, 79 people died during 103 emergencies of drowning in the River Ravi in Lahore; 56 died in 87 emergencies in Sialkot, 39 died in 21 emergencies in DG Khan, 78 died in 68 emergencies in Gujrat and 29 people died in 26 drowning emergencies in Layyah District during the last eight years. Gujranwala District topped the drowning cases with 190 deaths during 254 emergencies. However, death toll reached to 188 in Sialkot in 248 drowning cases as Sialkot is surrounded by different Nullahs including Nullah Eik, Nullah Dekh and other tributaries. District Emergency Services Lahore, where BRB, Lahore Canal, River Ravi are located, stood on third position with 273 emergencies in which 151 people died out of total 214 victims.  Rescue officials said that due to swift response and professionally management of emergencies, Rescue-1122 was notified as Disaster Response Force by the provincial government under the leadership of Dr Rizwan Naseer.

The DG had formed and trained Water Rescue Teams in all districts of the Punjab especially in flood-prone districts. Rescue ambulances equipped with modern equipment and professionally trained divers continue moving alongside the canals in order to deal with any kind of untoward incident of drowning in summer season.

The Rescue-1122 administration has urged the citizens to extend their cooperation with the rescuers and avoid swimming in the deep waters to save precious lives.