Accidents involving swimmers decrease by 50%

Over the last three years, the number of accidents involving swimmers and those near the sea decreased by half while no fatalities occurred.

Red Cross officers who spoke to TVM said that this decrease is probably due to the work which is being done over the summer in 25 beaches around the Maltese islands.

On the day dedicated to swimming safely, Television Malta visited Għadira bay to observe the work being done by these officers up close.

The preventive work being done by the Malta Red Cross is bearing fruit as the number of accounts have drastically decreased.

The Director of Operations Robert Brincau explained that statistics started being kept in 2018, and there were more than 8.400 accidents that year. In 2019, there were 7,800 accidents and last year slightly more than 5000 accidents.

He said these accidents very from bee and jellyfish stings to heart attacks.

He said that members of the Red Cross are always read to administer First Aid  but in contrast to previous years, it was noted that fish are coming closer and because some of these fish can sting or injure swimmers, the purple flag is hoisted.

“In these cases, the purple flag is not only a symbol for when there are jellyfish, because in English we say there is a ‘pest’, in other words, something in the sea which can bother you.”

Brincau said that the fact that the number of accidents is decreasing, while no fatalities were registered over the last few years at the beaches guarded by the Red Cross, shows that the prevention strategy which is being adopted is working.

He said that the lifeguards are trained not only to save lives but to prevent accidents.

He explained that even though one sees a lifeguard sitting down, he is still on duty and watching what is happening, and when a person does something which is not safe, he intervenes to warn the person concerned.

Brincau described an accident which happened recently during the strong winds when a swimmer tried to swim from one bay to another, and despite the warnings by the lifeguards, he still wanted to swim.

He described how the lifeguards still followed him along the coast so that when they saw that he was in danger they jumped in and rescued him.

“When he came to the point where he wanted to head back, he found himself in difficulty…obviously the lifeguards knew what was happening and their approach was not to swim alongside him, but to follow him from the coast to be close. In fact, with a short swim of just 15 metres, after he jumped in to swim, a jetski had to come and pick him up and we brought him back in.  No one knows about these accidents because we act promptly…if there had been a delay it would have been fatal.”

Red Cross officer Rita Fenech explained how the work of their organisation goes beyond summer and the beaches.

“Our work begins long before that and we do not just work during summer. We work all year long. We visit schools and create awareness among children,  at hotels, and we also speak to people who are at the beach.”

Fenech ended her appeal by asking all those who go to the beach to obey the instructions by the lifeguards and respect the sea so they will not put their lives and those of others in danger.