As summer approaches, the National Sea Rescue Institute (NSRI) has appealed to South Africans to only swim at beaches that are protected by lifeguards.
The NSRI said in a statement: “Unfortunately, for various reasons, people regularly swim where there are no lifeguards on duty.
“This may be on a beach before or after the lifeguard’s duty for the day, or at a beach that does not have lifeguards. This is when things can go wrong.”
According to the Royal Life Saving Society Commonwealth drowning report, released earlier this year, four people drown in SA every day.
There were 1,439 drownings in SA in 2017, the report said. The country was also ranked third in Africa and seventh in the world on the fatal drownings list that year.
“Our rule number one, for a safe experience at the beach, is to choose a beach that has lifeguards on duty and to swim between their flags.
“If you do that, you don’t need to worry about rip currents, or suddenly getting out of your depth. Putting an arm in the air and waving for help will get a rapid response from the lifeguards on duty.
“In a typical scenario, sea rescue gets an emergency call for a swimmer in difficulty and, when we get there, we find two or more people in danger of drowning. Tragically, sometimes we are not able to get there in time and someone drowns.”
The NSRI launched its Pink Rescue Buoy project three years ago to help prevent drownings.
“Often the person who does not survive is the Good Samaritan who went into the water to try to help a person who was in difficulty. Because this happens so frequently, Sea Rescue launched our Pink Rescue Buoy project in November 2017.
“These bright pink rescue buoys are hung on strategically placed signs and we hope that they will remind people to take care when entering water – and not to swim if lifeguards are not on duty at that stretch of the beach.
“If there is an incident and someone needs help, these buoys can be thrown to the person in trouble in the water, providing them with emergency flotation.”