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01 Dec 2017

More lifeguards needed to avert drownings

Dave Savides (Zululand Observer)

Tragically, experience tells us these will be the first of many over the festive season

The holiday season has hardly begun, and already we have had the sad occasion to record the drownings of six young children.

Tragically, experience tells us these will be the first of many over the festive season.

Of all the incidents difficult to report on from the scene, drownings are among the worst.

Paramedics or CPR-trained members of the public try with all their might to resuscitate the person who has been recovered from the water, and this in front of crowds – even family – that a short while before had been enjoying the sun and sea in merry mode.

All too often, especially when the drownings take place in the surf, the bodies are not immediately recovered, and only surface two or three days later.

During this time, families and friends keep vigil, hoping against hope that by some great miracle their loved one has been washed safely ashore.

Bleak scenes indeed and often scenarios that could have been prevented, either through bather caution or by the presence of trained lifeguards.

Given the heat and humidity of Zululand, people will want to cool off in water.

While this often happens in isolated rivers and dams, where there is little immediate help available, drownings also occur in predictable and well-frequented places.

One of these is the Bay Hall/Pelican Island section, where calm, waveless conditions belie the dangerous conditions.

With steep ledges and holes underfoot, many bathers have been caught unawares and found they are unable to stand. Not capable of swimming and with panic setting in, the outcome is fatal.

There have been countless attempts over the years to prevent drownings at the Bay Hall area, without success.

A number of factors contribute to this failure, one of which is the difficulty of emergency vehicles in accessing the beaches in peak season.

An ambulance is normally based at Alkantstrand, but driving that short distance to the Bay Hall is chaotic, and once a patient has eventually been reached, getting them to hospital in reasonable time via the bumper-to-bumper John Ross Parkway is well-nigh impossible.

All sorts of traffic access and control have been tried over the years and all have failed.

As the old adage says: ‘Prevention is better than cure’, and hopefully the City of uMhlathuze will not stint in its responsibility to budget for additional, temporary lifeguards so that both the main beach and the Bay Hall recreational section can be policed and protected and drownings averted.