The City of Cape Town's lifeguards kept their heads above water this festive season as they responded to hundreds of incidents including over 90 first aid cases, 100 help-outs and 41 rescues at beaches. The City's Mayoral Committee Member for Safety and Security; and Social Services, Alderman JP Smith, met with some of the beach lifeguards who helped keep festive season bathers safe. Read more below:
Over this festive season, beach lifeguards recued 41 persons from drowning and helped 111 people back to shore after they got into trouble ('help-outs'). They also treated 94 people in need of first aid and 11 in need of serious medical attention.
A help-out refers to a situation when the bather can still swim, but is struggling to make it back to shore and the lifeguards are there to assist. A near drowning or rescue is when the bather is in serious difficulty and usually starts to panic, is tired, can't swim or float anymore and starts to swallow water.
'I want to commend lifeguards for their daily acts of heroism and acknowledge the many more lives that would've been lost if they had not responded as quickly and effectively as they did. Your efforts have prevented the death toll from being much higher on our beaches.
'Keeping bathers safe is made possible through the invaluable partnership between the City, the National Sea Rescue Institute and Lifesaving Western Province. These relationships and regular operations are crucial in ensuring more lives are not lost,' said Alderman Smith.
This year the City's lifeguard contingent consisted of more than 270 trained and accredited seasonal lifeguards, and hundreds of volunteer lifeguards at beaches as well as the voluntary services of the various lifesaving clubs affiliated to Lifesaving Western Province. The Recreation and Parks Department had an additional pool of 100 lifeguards for deployment as they were needed in response to visitor numbers and weather and sea conditions.
Alderman Smith visited Mnandi beach where lifeguards were previously involved in a mass rescue; and Monwabisi beach where there have been no recorded drownings so far in this festive season for the first time in a number of years.
'Considering the number of people who flock to City beaches, our lifeguards are doing sterling work. They have to contend with bathers who ignore instructions and refuse to heed warnings. We've had two incidents where up to 100 people were swimming in a non-bathing area. This places an additional strain on lifeguards whose main duty it is to keep bathers safe in designated areas,' said Alderman Smith.
There have been 11 drownings for the period from 5 December 2017 to 8 January 2018.
'The drowning toll at City beaches this year is up on last year, and this is a cause for concern. The number of drownings year-on-year should however not be compared in isolation since factors such as prevailing weather conditions, the number of people on the beach and other causal variables need to be considered. For example, high temperatures over peak weekends result in extremely large crowds at popular beaches; and the closure of the majority of municipal pools this year has meant that there are likely more people at the coast.
'Each year we make a detailed assessment of the individual circumstances of each drowning in order to identify any trends so that we can improve our beach safety strategy for next season. Nine of the 11 drownings occurred when bathers swam outside of designated bathing areas, and on stretches where there were no lifeguards on duty. Also, males especially from the age of 16 and up dominate the list of victims. No young children are among the victims and there have been no drownings at tidal pools this year. Interestingly, Monwabisi, Camps Bay and Strand beaches have accounted for 60% of drownings in last eight years. However, this year there were no drownings at either Monwabisi or Camps Bay.' Said Alderman Smith.
One of the three incidents at Strand was part of a mass rescue in which three out of four people were saved. Unfortunately, this incident also took place at a non-designated bathing area.
'On 3 December 2017, an adult male was washed over the tidal pool wall into the sea at Sparks Bay Beach near Kogel Bay. It was high tide with choppy surf and because of the rocky area he could not be reached with a normal torpedo or boat rescue. Tidal pool lifeguards showed their ingenuity and made a human chain to bring the bather safely back to shore,' explained Alderman Smith.
'We previously reported 14 drownings for this season. The above table records only those drownings that occurred at beaches, not including harbour areas or inland water bodies. Lifeguards are to be commended for their dedication and vigilance at a time when everyone else is in holiday mode. I want to urge bathers to help us keep them safe. Swim where there are lifeguards, obey their instructions and swim only in designated areas,' said Alderman Smith.
Source: City of Cape Town