19 bathers drown, 4 missing in rough seas off Karachi: Officials

KARACHI (AFP) - At least 19 bathers have drowned and four are missing in rough seas off Pakistan's biggest city Karachi after defying a ban on swimming during the monsoon season, officials said on Thursday.

"19 bodies have been pulled out of the sea while the search for four more people continues," Mr Shoaib Ahmed Siddiqui, the city's top administrator told AFP.

The bathers were among thousands who had taken to the beaches to celebrate the Eid holiday, which began on Tuesday and continues until Friday.

Eighteen of the bodies were recovered off the upscale Clifton Beach area, while one was found off Hawks Bay in the west of the city.

Mr Siddiqui added that a search operation had been launched with the help of Navy divers and a helicopter, as well as civil authorities.

Senior police officer Ibadat Nisar said: "The government imposed a ban on swimming in the sea before the start of the monsoon season in June and police were deployed to implement the ban, but people became violent."

Relatives of some of the missing were gathered at Clifton beach, anxiously awaiting word of their loved ones.

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