x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Drownings off Sharjah and Ajman coasts prompt safety call

Residents want to see watchtowers and extra lifeguards on beaches in bid to prevent more tragedies occurring during rough seas

Residents have asked authorities to do more to protect beach goers, such as stepping up lifeguard patrols and building watchtowers to observe swimmers.
Residents have asked authorities to do more to protect beach goers, such as stepping up lifeguard patrols and building watchtowers to observe swimmers.

SHARJAH // Nine people have drowned so far this year off the Sharjah and Ajman coasts, prompting renewed calls to increase safety along the emirates' beaches.

The latest deaths occurred in Sharjah on Monday when a 33-year-old Ghanaian man and a Nepalese man, 25, drowned after getting into difficulties off Hamriya and Al Mamzar beaches respectively.

The youngest person to die was a nine-year-old British boy, who drowned on August 29 while swimming with his family at Sharjah's Al Mamzar. An Egyptian man drowned off Al Khan beach in the emirate on August 25.

Now residents have asked authorities to do more to protect beach goers, such as stepping up lifeguard patrols and building watchtowers to observe swimmers, especially with the cooler winter weather just around the corner.

"At least one watchtower should be built on every beach," said Hussam Al Arabi, who was swimming at Sharjah beach in Ajman.

"Lifeguards should also be equipped with proper communication tools to caution swimmers in case they go out too deep into the sea."

Extra security patrols, similar to those frequently seen on Dubai's beaches, should be brought in along the coasts of Ajman and Sharjah, said Mohammed Banna, an Egyptian visiting Al Khan beach.

"I always come to this beach but have not seen security patrols moving around as frequently as I see on Dubai's beaches like Jumeirah or even Al Mamzar here," he said.

He added the only time he had seen police patrols at Al Khan beach was when they were searching for the bodies of people who had drowned.

Last year, Sharjah's rescue and emergency department came to the aid of 541 people who got into trouble while in the water. Crews also recovered the bodies of 10 people who had drowned.

Ansar Ibrahim, 35, from India, wanted to see authorities putting up wave breakers and barriers to stop swimmers from venturing into dangerous water and putting their lives at risk.

Capt Rashid Yousif bin Sandal, director of Sharjah Rescue Department, said there were two rescue centres set up on the emirate's beaches to monitor the waters and to watch anyone who goes swimming.

He also said there are a number of signs installed along beaches indicating areas where swimming was not permitted.

However, some people choose to ignore the warning signs and often get into trouble as a result.

On April 2 this year, an Arab man drowned and four others, including two children, were rescued off Ajman beach after ignoring safety warnings and bad weather.

Three weeks later, five Europeans were rescued from waters off the same beach after swimming in rough weather.

And on the same day, a 50-year-old Russian tourist drowned while trying to swim in high waves off Ajman beach.

On July 6, three men - two Arabs and one Asian - drowned off Ajman corniche beach after trying to swim in rough weather, while two other people had to be rescued by Civil Defence crews.

A spokesman for the Sharjah airport meteorological department urged anyone planning to visit beaches anywhere in the UAE to check the local weather reports beforehand to make sure it is safe to go swimming.

ykakande@thenational.ae