SHARJAH // Part of Sharjah's main beach has been closed to the public after four people drowned this year.
New barriers prevent swimmers reaching the water after it was ruled too dangerous. The ban will be in place throughout the summer and possibly longer.
"We have had a study with experts and found that most of the areas of the corniche, stretching to the Ajman/Sharjah border, are dangerous," said Capt Rashid bin Sandal, director general of the Sharjah Police Ambulance and Rescue Unit. "There are high tides and waves sweeping the area all the time that can pull even the best swimmer."
No decision has been taken on when the beach will reopen because authorities "need to be very sure there is safety in that area before it's opened", Capt bin Sandal said.
Eleven people died last year in waters off Sharjah. Capt bin Sandal said the number of incidents tended to rise during the summer.
The beach is a popular destination for families and tourists. In recent years residents have called on the authorities to do more to protect swimmers, such as stepping up lifeguard patrols and building watchtowers.
Rescuers are still searching for the body of a man who drowned off Al Khan beach on Saturday.
Police boats, the coast guard and a helicopter have all been involved in the search.
The missing man's two friends were pulled from the water by rescuers. Capt bin Sandal said the three men had been asked to get out of the water by a police patrol at the beach because of the dangerous conditions.
"When these men saw our patrol moving to warn other people they slipped back into the water and they got into trouble," he said. "These two men were saved by the fact we were at sea monitoring it and knew it was rough."
One of the rescued men, Saifulah from Pakistan, said he was grateful to officers for saving him.
A six-year-old Russian boy almost drowned last month while playing in the water off Al Khan beach. He spent more than two weeks in intensive care in Al Qassimi Hospital and is still recovering.
In a bid to prevent more incidents, authorities in the emirate have printed thousands of brochures in English and Arabic warning people not to ignore "no swimming" signs, not to go out into deep water and never to allow children to swim alone.
The brochures will be distributed in malls and schools and along beaches.
Capt bin Sandal said not only swimmers ran the risk of getting into trouble in the water. The police rescue unit also appealed to leisure sailors to follow safety instructions such as not to overload their vessel, ensure the boat was equipped with a first aid kit, fire extinguishers and enough life jackets, ensure they have enough fuel and that weather conditions at sea were safe before setting off.