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Officials: Indians Still Drinking 'Miraculous Sweet' Seawater Despite Warnings Over Pollution

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MUMBAI, India -- Despite several warnings by health officials and police, hundreds of people today continued to flock the Mahim beach in the city and tasted the "miraculous sweet" water of the Arabian sea.

"Today being a Sunday, several curious people came to the Mahim beach area to taste the 'sweet' water," police said adding that they paid no heed to warnings given by health officials. "We tried to control them yesterday but today we just warned them about the health risks of drinking such water", said police.

Fearing an outbreak of gastroenteritis and other water-borne diseases in the wake of hundreds of people consuming the 'miraculous sweet' water, MCGM today said they are keeping a round-the-clock vigil on all medical institutions and hospitals in the city to detect any case of the disease being reported.

"We are keeping a round-the-clock vigil on all hospitals in the city and suburbs including the peripheral medical institutions for any case of gastroenteritis as we have to be prepared for a possible outbreak of the water-borne diseases," Dr S J Damble, Joint Commissioner of MCGM, said. Dr Damble said "Luckily, so far no case of admission for any gastroenteritis has been reported. The acute cases should have come within four to ten hours of drinking and there is no report of any chronic case also." Thousands of people had thronged the Mahim beach since Friday night following reports of sea water turning sweet.

Despite official warnings, people collected the murky water in bottles and plastic bags to take it home due to their ignorance, Dr Damble said. Children and women drank the 'holy' water on the beach.

Meanwhile, chief executive health officer of MCGM, Mr J Thanekar said the tested water showed presence of bacterial Escherichia coli (E.coli), a human intestinal flora, (also found in sewage water) in the 'sweet water'.

Quoting National Institute of Oceanography officials, he said "it (water turning sweet) is possible that the contamination in the water might have reduced due to the flowing water of Mithi river in the mouth of Mahim Bay." The phenomenon of water turning sweet was initially noticed in the vicinity of the dargah of Baba Maqdoom, located on the Mahim creek, giving rise to speculations that the water was "holy".

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