Strong tides could claim more lives
Over the past three weeks, four children and one adult drowned at the Eastern Beach, Quigney in East London. Five teenagers aged between 12 and 18 were saved by lifeguards following school tours by two schools, from Middelburg and Mthatha.
In a statement, the Buffalo City Municipality attributed these incidents to a strong tide that overwhelmed the children who were swimming outside the demarcated lifeguard flags, suspected to have been unsupervised.
Strong rip current warnings were also given by the National Sea Rescue Institute (NSRI). A spokesperson for the NSRI Craig Lambinon said rip currents occur every day on every coastline in the world and form naturally in different places along the coast regularly throughout the day and night.
“The Eastern Beach attracts the most bathers resulting in most incidents being reported,” said Lambinon. People are advised to swim only if they know how to, and those that are not strong swimmers must be supervised.
Alcohol and drugs are not to be consumed before and during swimming.
According to the NSRI, rip currents are in essence rivers of water that flow out to the back waves. They do not pull you under but rather drag you out to sea. If one finds him or herself in a rip current, remain calm, swim to the side (parallel to the beach) and wave for attention. If you cannot escape, float. We also advise that people swim in beaches manned by lifeguards and to only swim between the flags.
BCMM is in the process of hiring 42 additional lifeguards for the period of December 9 and January 31, strictly for the festive season.
In May 2018, it was reported that two teenage school pupils drowned at the Eastern beach after being caught in rip currents during a school trip involving 200 learners and 19 teachers.
On a daily basis, seven beach-based areas in the City have 19 lifeguards on duty, in Gonubie, Bonza Bay, Nahoon, Eastern beach, Tidal pool, Orient and the Water World complex.
“All our lifeguards have a minimum qualification of a lifeguard award, an internationally recognized qualification. They also complete a retest once a year to keep the qualification. There is a range of equipment at their disposal, mainly torpedo buoys, these are the most used pieces of rescue equipment worldwide, Malibu boards, a jetski as well and two boats,” detailed Samkelo Ngwenya, spokesperson for the Metro.
Normal operating hours are from 8.30am until 5pm. However, on New Year’s Day lifeguards will work in shifts at the Eastern Beach and Orient complex starting from 4.30am until 8pm.