Red alerts issued as drownings rise

getimage (1)During a grim season which saw an increase in inland water incidents, 69 people have drowned in the Eastern Cape since last month prompting special appeals and warnings by authorities.

According to police figures, 41 people drowned in 39 incidents last month, while so far this year 28 people have drowned in 32 incidents.

The latest drowning in Nelson Mandela Bay occurred last week when a 14-year-old boy died at St George’s Park Swimming Baths in Port Elizabeth and another two, aged nine and 11, drowned in the Swartkops River.

Coastal Water Rescue coordinator Wayne de Lange said his team had responded to 12 incidents in the Bay area last month.

In these, four people were rescued while eight drowned.

De Lange said that of these drownings, six were swimmers who had been caught in rip currents.

“Some of these incidents are linked to alcohol abuse while others are linked to negligence,” he said.

One man jumped off Shark Rock Pier at Hobie Beach.

Four of the 12 incidents occurred in rivers and lagoons, while others were at Beachview, Kings Beach, Deal Party and Maitlands.

Port Elizabeth National Sea Rescue Institute commander Ian Gray said: “It is evident that there is an increase in inland water-related drownings, which is a great concern.

“With regard to the sea, almost all of the incidents were swimmers who had been caught in rip currents.”

Lifesaving Eastern Cape spokesman David Bamber said last year’s national figures ranked the province third highest in terms of 179 drownings in all provinces.

“Overall the Eastern Cape accounted for 8% for the 2014 period.”

The highest number of drownings occurred in KwaZulu-Natal (36%), followed by the Western Cape (26%).

– Gareth Wilson

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