x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Flagging water safety standards

More warnings, surveillance and common sense are needed if further drownings on Dubai's beaches are to be avoided.

On Saturday, a young man who was enjoying a day out with a group of friends had his life saved by the quick thinking and action of fellow swimmers at Jumeirah Beach. Dragged under by a vicious riptide, the man was near drowning before help arrived.

But less than an hour later, another man was not so lucky. And now, as friends and family mourn the death of Crismon Thomas, 28, residents of the area and regular beach visitors are calling for improved safety measures to stop similar incidents from happening in the future. Another beachgoer, David Capps, said he had seen "countless" people fall prey to the rip currents, sometimes at the risk of their lives.

There is obviously a lack of awareness about water safety. In the last year, The National has reported similar cases across the country's beaches where swimmers have been carried out to sea.

It is also telling that in both cases on Saturday, it was other beachgoers that provided the first response, probably saving a life in the first instance. Dubai has 33 lifeguards stationed at beaches across the emirate, but clearly swimmers are still in peril in some locations. In March, three people drowned in very similar circumstances, one by Jumeirah Beach Hotel and the other two opposite JBR, at the same stretch where Mr Thomas lost his life.

More lifeguards may be necessary. In extreme conditions, beaches should be closed (as half of Jumeirah Beach was on Saturday). But the popularity of the beaches and crowds that pack the sand on the weekends argues for a more comprehensive approach to raise awareness about water safety. Mr Capps provides some useful suggestions: flag riptide areas and have beach patrols watching for hazard signs.

Proper signage warning of conditions could inform the public about how to keep safe at the beach. Personal responsibility is obviously critical, but repeated accidents at the same locations show that more needs to be done at a municipal level.