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City responded to 39 non-fatal drownings

The City advises swimmers to swim in the marked area where flags are. file image

The City advises swimmers to swim in the marked area where flags are. file image

Published Jan 26, 2022


Cape Town - Police have yet to confirm whether the body which washed up near Strandfontein pavilion is that of a 28-year-old man who went missing at sea on Sunday.

Police said a 28-year-old man had been reported missing while swimming at Sonwabe beach.

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On Tuesday a body washed up at Strandfontein, but it is not certain it is that of the missing swimmer.

Police spokesperson, Captain Frederick Van Wyk said: “It was reported that a 28-year old from Brown’s Farm, Philippi went swimming at Sonwabe beach on January 23 at about 2.40pm and never came out. An inquiry of a missing person has been opened.”

The City of Cape Town confirmed they responded to 184 incidents where assistance was needed with a total of 39 non-fatal drownings, 14 of which took place over the past weekend.

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Mayco Member for Community Services and Health Patricia van der Ross said they had responded to 39 non-fatal incidents on beaches and had 15 voluntary lifeguards on duty at beaches during the weekend when scorching weather was experienced.

“The City has recorded a staggering 39 non-fatal drownings this season, with 14 of these occurring this past weekend.

“These were successful rescues where patients would otherwise have lost their lives if not for the interventions of first responders and emergency services.

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“A mammoth 184 help-outs were performed by City lifeguards just this weekend, in addition to the countless preventative actions taken by them prior to a rescue being required.

“Additional rescues were also performed by voluntary lifeguards from the 15 lifesaving clubs in Cape Town and the NSRI members from their base and satellite stations on duty around the coast.

“We thank these brave souls for putting their lives on the line to help others, amid some very challenging conditions and packed beaches,” she said.

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Van der Ross said two lives were lost on Sunday and warned the public about rip currents and for swimmers to adhere to protocols on beaches by being in demarcated areas where lifeguards were present.

“Unfortunately, two fatal drownings occurred on Sunday, January 23, one at Strand beach and the other at Sonwabe beach. In both cases, the patients were adult males who lost their lives.

“The City conveys its deepest sympathies to the families of the deceased,” Van der Ross said.

The City recorded 15 fatal drownings between September last year and January 23, while 39 lives were saved and recorded as non-fatal drownings, she said.

“In most of these cases, the victims had been swimming outside of designated bathing areas, on unguarded beaches or outside of lifeguard hours.

“Rip currents are deceptively dark and calm-looking patches of the ocean which, when viewed from a distance, appear to have no waves, but are powerful channels of fast-moving water.

“Swimmers caught in rip currents instinctively try to swim back to shore against the current, but in most cases, the current is too strong (even for well-seasoned/ professional swimmers) and the risk of drowning quickly escalates as the swimmer becomes fatigued.

“The only way to avoid rip currents is to swim between the lifeguards’ red and yellow flags designating the safest bathing area,” she said.

Van der Ross added that alcohol abuse also contributed to drownings.

“Alcohol is not allowed at beaches and municipal swimming pools and the City places signage and educational posters at key locations to advise on the dangers of ignoring these rules.

“Alcohol can make you misjudge your own swimming abilities, slow down the body and physical reactions while swimming or even reduce the effectiveness of CPR.

“Children under the age of 15 are statistically at greater risk of drowning than any other age group of individuals.

“It is critical that parents and caregivers actively supervise children around water, and ensure that minors do not venture out of sight when in their care,” she said.

Weekend Argus

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