x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Drowning prompts call for JBR lifeguards

Janet Marie, 64, a visiting British tourist, was swept out to sea last Wednesday.

Police have asked for the Dubai Municipality to designate a specific area of the long strand for swimming at Jumeirah Beach.
Police have asked for the Dubai Municipality to designate a specific area of the long strand for swimming at Jumeirah Beach.

DUBAI // Police called for urgent new safety measures on the Jumeirah Beach Residence shoreline yesterday after a swimmer drowned - the second in two months and the fourth in less than a year.

Janet Marie, 64, a British tourist visiting with her husband, was at the beach with her grandchildren last Wednesday, went swimming and was swept out to sea.

"The drowning was not caused by bad weather conditions. The woman must have been unable to fight a current," said Lt Col Abdullah Al Mazyoud, director of Jebel Ali Ports police station.

He urged the municipality to install wavebreakers at sea and watchtowers staffed by lifeguards on the beach. "This beach is one of the most problematic ones for us, mainly because it is not well equipped for swimming," Col Al Mazyoud said. "It is important to better equip this beach, because many people visit it."

The two-kilometre stretch of beach is legally the responsibility of Dubai Municipality's Coastal Management department, but police rescue units have provided most of the patrols, he said.

"We have rescue police patrolling the beach at all times, but municipality lifeguards are needed for better surveillance."

The police dispatch land and maritime patrols in response to any incident, but dedicated lifeguards would be a better preventive measure.

"Surveilling a large number of people without a watching tower is difficult," Col Al Mazyoud said.

In March last year, two British tourists drowned at JBR beach in the space of two hours. In December, Crismon Thomas, a 28-year-old newlywed from Kerala, was swimming with friends when he was pulled out to sea by a rip-tide and drowned.

Police asked the municipality to designate a specific area of the long strand for swimming. Major Ahmed bu Ruqweba, deputy head of the Dubai Rescue Police, said: "Not defining a stretch of beach in which people are allowed to swim makes our surveillance of the beach more difficult, as we are spreading our efforts over a vast area."

Surfers' groups also urged new safety measures yesterday. "All beaches need to be manned with lifeguards," said Scott Chambers, co-founder and instructor with Surf Dubai and a leading beach-safety advocate.

"However, it is not an easy thing to be done, and I think the authorities are working towards it."

JBR beach could not be considered unsafe, he said, compared to beaches elsewhere in the world.

Public education was the key to safeguarding swimmers, he said. "To the best of my knowledge, there is no signage or education at the beach."

Surf Dubai advises its students that swimmers who find themselves caught in a rip-tide should first turn and swim parallel to the beach to escape the pull of the tide, and then swim to shore.

Installing wave breakers - large stone barriers parallel to the shore that control currents and high waves - was not the answer, Mr Chambers said.

"They would stop the waves, so having them would be neglecting a natural resource for the country."

Col Al Mazyoud said that much of the problem lay with swimmers. "There is not enough awareness," he said. "People need to be more careful when approaching the sea. They should also protect themselves. They need to be careful of any currents and not swim too far out."

Dubai Municipality could not be reached for comment.

wissa@thenational.ae