New Year drowning cases spark safety concerns

|     Azlan Othman     |

MEMBERS of the public have called for more lifeguards to be stationed at beaches to prevent future tragic deaths by drowning.

The call comes in the wake of two fatalities on New Year’s Day, involving a 15-year-old Filipino boy at the Berakas Recreational Forest Reserve Beach and a 21 -year-old Indonesian citizen at the Tungku Beach.

In a near-drowning incident at Muara Beach on the same day, two Indonesians were rescued by other swimmers, after being swept away by strong currents.

“A rip current is a powerful current of water moving away from the shore,” said local non-governmental organisation Beach Bunch, in a statement via social media. “It can sweep even the strongest swimmer out to the sea. If you are caught, don’t fight the current and don’t panic. Float or tread if you can’t escape, then swim out of the current to the shore.”

“The sea looks calm, but it has undercurrents and deep holes that pull you down,” said one survivor of a near-drowning incident.

“People should refrain from vandalising signboards at the beach about the dangers of rip currents and swimming in unsuitable weather,” said a retired public servant.

The unstable weather conditions of the  past few weeks have prompted authorities to issue advisories, warning the public to be on the alert for high tides and rip currents.

According to Beach Bunch, 11 drowning cases have been reported from 2015 to 2018. Out of that number, 10 of those cases occurred at beaches.