x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 20 July 2017

Police want more beach regulation

Up to seven swimmers died each week in drowning deaths this summer says Sharjah police, calling for a sea patrol unit.

SHARJAH // Police are calling for a specialised sea police unit and new legislation to protect swimmers after dozens of drowning deaths at beaches and private homes this summer. Col Mohammed Eid al Madhloom, the director of the Sharjah Police Operations Room, said up to seven people died each week this summer at beaches - including four people in one day. He blamed a change in weather that caused strong offshore currents at the beginning of the season and in the first week of July. Stricter rules are needed to prevent swimmers from entering dangerous waters because without proper regulations, police are only able to issue warnings, he said. "We suggest to the legislators to come up with a law that would prosecute all the swimmers who go beyond the prohibited swimming area," he said. "Our police team would help to arrest all the violators and send a message to others." Police want the Government to establish a special sea police unit, with rescue capabilities and an operations room that would serve Sharjah beaches as well as those from Abu Musa to Al Khan, said Col Ahmed Hamad al Suwaidi, also of Sharjah police. The operations room should also include an emergency station to treat those who have been injured in the sea, rather than airlifting them or driving through congested roads to the nearest hospital, he said. "We want to see that in case of an emergency on water, whether it is drowning or break up of a ship, there is an immediate rescue team on the waters throughout the year, as these cases have gone up," he said. First Lt Faisal al Douhi, a police lifeguard, believed new swimmers should be kept within designated areas, away from deep waters. "Most of the people that we rescued after drowning had not perfected swimming but had gone deep in the water with confidence from friends who were teaching them to swim," he said. "Though these friends could swim, they couldn't rescue them when they got into trouble. The only good thing they did for them was raise the alarm." Attention is also being paid to home swimming pools after several toddlers drowned this season. At the beginning of July, an Emirati child, aged one, drowned in Sharjah's Samnan area. A week earlier a four-year-old Emirati girl drowned in Ras al Khaimah. The girl's relatives told RAK police that she had learnt to swim at an early age. She had been left alone in her family's pool when her elder brothers inside the house heard her screaming. They ran and plucked her from the pool and rushed her to Saqr Hospital's emergency centre. Dr Yousef al Taysir, the chief of Saqr Hospital's emergency department, said such incidents served as a reminder to all families with a home swimming pool to watch their children closely. "This is the second case of a child drowning at home this year and it's very absurd how something meant to bring joy at home is causing grief," he said. But Dr Samir Abdullah Abdul Aziz, a consultant on child safety in Ras al Khaimah, said the Government should go further, setting up a department to make sure residential pools included the proper safety precautions. "We should also start reconsidering the design and making of swimming pools at home," he said. "All pools should be in an enclosure that could be closed and stop children from approaching it without the supervision of the adults." He said that some people baulked at installing additional fencing for residential pools. "Everybody says, 'well, it's expensive'," said Dr Aziz. "Well, what is the value of a life?" However, safety precautions cannot replace parental supervision, which should always be vigilant, he said. "Adequate supervision means not sitting poolside reading, socialising with guests, chatting on the phone, operating the grill or listening to music with a headset," said Dr Aziz. "Such distractions are deadly." Dr Aziz said swimming pools presented a host of other dangers that could cause children to suffer everything from spinal injuries to cuts, lesions and punctures. Some of the chemicals used to maintain pools can be harmful to the skin or cause problems if inhaled, while they can also develop bacteria that can be harmful to skin, he said. @email:ykakande@thenational.ae