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Dublin: 8°C Tuesday 1 December 2020

Many weekend swimmers 'very close to disaster' as Coast Guard called to 72 incidents

The Coast Guard has seen the number of call-outs double this summer due to the heatwave.

Teenagers jump into the harbour at Carnlough, county Antrim.
Teenagers jump into the harbour at Carnlough, county Antrim.
Image: Paul Faith/PA Wire/Press Association Images

WITH THE UNPRECEDENTED heatwave came a shocking number of drowning tragedies in one-time traditional swimming haunts across Ireland.

The Coast Guard has confirmed that the number of call-outs has doubled year-on-year, with 72 incidents reported last weekend alone.

Speaking on Morning Ireland today, Declan Geoghegan from the Coast Guard services said many of the swimmers were “extremely lucky” as there were “a lot of incidents…that were very close to disaster in terms of people having loss of life”.

“Some were what I would call very close shaves,” he added.

The Coast Guard and Irish Water Safety have urged the public to be vigilant while in the water and only to swim in designated bathing areas manned by lifeguards.

“A lot of the incidents are indeed in quarries and inland waterways and lakes. It is not as safe to be swimming in those, especially where they are unsupervised,” explained the Operations Manager. “Some of them are traditional areas for swimming – especially in country areas – but haven’t been used for some time due to bad weather over the past number of years. The riverbeds can change in that period of time due to flooding so people who think they are familiar with areas are just using them for the first time.”

He warned that fresh water is colder and doesn’t have the same buoyancy as salt water. It can also sap the body heat “very quickly”.

So people should be aware that 20 minutes is a long time to be in cold water. That exposure should be lessened and people should learn to be in and out of the water for short periods of time and always stay within your depth or parallel to the shore.

In light of a number of dangerous accidents over the past 10 days, the Coast Guard has called for parents not to allow children use inflatable toys or lilos while in the sea. Yesterday, the Valentia Coast Guard rescued two children after their inflatable ring buoy drifted from the shoreline after getting caught in an off-shore breeze..

“They are strictly for swimming pools in our opinion because they are too dangerous, especially for small children. You can be swept out to sea in the twinkle of an eye,” continued Geoghegan.

Commenting on a number of the recent drownings that have been linked to alcohol consumption during the hours of darkness, he said:

“If you are swimming at night, you are in grave danger because, number one, nobody can see you and, number two, if you have alcohol consumed you are not in any way compliant with safety or in a position to help yourself.”

Since the current spell of good weather began, eleven people have lost their lives in drowning accidents. The most recent victim was a 65-year-old man who was last seen swimming in the Ahenny quarry in Carrick-on-Suir on Saturday evening.

If you’re going to be near water in the coming days, stay safe.

Read: Young man drowns while swimming with a friend in Killarney

More: ESB warns public: don’t swim in reservoirs

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