NEWS

A plague of death by drowning

One of the most dangerous swimming beaches in Greece appears to be Nei Pori in Pieria, where five people have drowned within the space of 22 days due to strong sea currents. The coast guard yesterday pressed charges against local Mayor Yiannis Tsarouchas for not hiring lifeguards, although he claims no one applied for the two jobs advertised. Volunteer lifeguards are now patrolling the area. In the past five years, 4,473 people have drowned on Greece’s beaches, one of the highest figures in the world, according to official Merchant Marine Ministry statistics. Of these, 3,455 were Greeks, and 3,389 were men. Coast guard officials said that most of the victims were aged over 65 or between 30 to 45, and usually overestimated their abilities. There are several cases in which the victims have not been identified. This year, 121 people have already drowned – 72 of them aged over 50. The number of drowning deaths has decreased only slightly in recent years (from 352 in 1999 to 299 in 2002), chiefly due to awareness campaigns in the media, according to the coast guard, who have issued a list of 12 safety guidelines. These include warnings about swimming too far from shore and not being able to get back, swimming within three to four hours after meals and after drinking alcohol. They urge swimmers to remain calm in difficulty and to seek assistance when necessary if another person is in trouble. Inadequate supervision of children has led to the drowning of 35 children aged under 19 every year, according to the Children’s Accident Research and Prevention Center. Nearly half of all primary school age children go swimming without adequate adult supervision.