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article imageBeach drownings rise in Australia, awareness campaign launched

By Roderick Eime     Jan 24, 2010 in World
Surf Lifesaving Australia (SLSA) has launched a new website and awareness campaign in an attempt to halt the rising number of drowning deaths from treacherous rip currents.
The sharp rise in the number of tragic and avoidable deaths from drownings has captured the attention of Australians this summer.
Just this weekend, a 48-year-old Sydney man swam in to save his two sons and another boy who were caught in a rip. He managed to rescue one, while the others were brought to safety by local board riders. He then got into difficulties and was unconscious when brought ashore.
A woman swimming with her 12-year-old daughter at Bateman's Bay was revived by rescuers while Joseph and Carole Sherry, from Sydney's southwest, died while their three children aged 17, 14 and nine, watched on helplessly as their parents drowned in front of them.
An appeal has been launched for the orphans as well as a safety awareness page on Facebook.
Quick actions from surf lifesavers, board riders and local boat owners have averted numerous other tragedies when unfamiliar holidaymakers swim at unpatrolled beaches.
"Tragically 44 people have lost their lives on Australian beaches since July 2009 – 19 of these drownings occurred during December 2009 and January 2010. That is significantly up from this time last year, with 27 drownings recorded from July 2008 and January 2009," said Surf Life Saving Australia’s General Manager of Operations, Peter Agnew
The big killer is believed to be the deadly 'rip current': a fast-flowing current of water that moves rapidly away from a surf beach during turns in the tide, while the greatest danger exists with newly-arrived migrants and international vacationers who are unfamiliar with the risks. According to an SLSA report, men are nine times more likely to drown.
"We continue to see people ignoring these signs and going into the water in very dangerous situations. I'm sure some of our top elite lifeguards and certainly our lifesavers wouldn't swim in these areas but some other people tend to take their chance with, of course, dire consequences," said Gold Coast police Superintendent Jim Keogh in a report in the Brisbane Times.
As further testament to this estimate, rip currents cause approximately 100 deaths annually in the United States, more than all other natural hazards except heat and floods. Over 80% of rescues by surf beach lifeguards are due to rip currents totaling 18,000 lifeguard rescues a year. - SLSA Case Study
The new web site, Rip Currents, aims to inform swimmers about the dangers, how to recognise them and avoid them.
More about Drowning, Beach, Australia, Surf, Death
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