37 bodies recovered after Karachi bathing deaths

KARACHI - Rescuers recovered two more bodies from rough seas off Pakistan's biggest city Karachi as the search for a group of bathers who drowned earlier this week continued Saturday, officials said, raising the death toll to 37.

Dozens of people drowned off the Arabian Sea shore on Wednesday after defying a ban on swimming during the monsoon season.

The bathers were among thousands who had taken to the beaches to celebrate the Eid-ul-Fitr holiday marking the end of Ramadan, which began on Tuesday and continued until Friday.

"The number of people who died after drowning in the sea reached 37 after navy rescuers pulled out two more bodies," Shoaib Ahmed Siddiqui, Karachi's top administrator, told AFP.

"We will continue the search operation until all the bodies have been recovered but it is difficult to say how many people are still missing," he added.

Navy helicopters and speed boats led the search operation, both along the coast and in the open ocean.

The relatives of some of the missing were still at the beach anxiously waiting for word of their loved ones.

Thousands of residents regularly throng Karachi's beaches on public holidays, which has few public parks available for picnics.

But safety standards are very low with the few lifeguards on duty often unable to exert any authority.

Karachi, a teeming city of 20 million people, is Pakistan's economic hub and is regularly wracked by political and ethnic violence.