The National Sea Rescue Institute (NSRI) is on high alert after several incidents at Cape Town beaches that have put a damper on the festive season. Over the weekend, the city experienced an unexpected tidal surge which led to at least one fatality.
On Friday three beachgoers were rescued after being caught up in rising tides, which also led to the evacuation of beaches in Hout Bay, Strand and Strandfontein. The same day a swimmer, identified as 18 year old Vernon Naude, was swept out to see in Strand, with his body recovered almost 24 hours later.
Whilst the NSRI are on high alert throughout the year for such incidents, the end of year period is seen as particular busy time for sea rescue operations, especially with an influx of tourists and students at the City’s beaches.
NSRI spokesperson, Craig Lambinon, said they had been alerted to at least 11 incidents on Boxing Day alone, all of which were directly related to a tidal surge that hit the coastline. There were also incidents of seal cubs washing ashore in Mossel Bay and False Bay.
“Everybody is obviously much more prepared and able this time of the year, because of the increase in people going to the beaches, and more boats launching out to sea,” he said.
He said lifeguards were surprised by the unexpected surge, as a phenomenon of this nature would have been more commonplace during the winter months.
In the midst of such higher than normal tides, the NSRI were keen to warn beachgoers about the dangers of rip currents, which he attributed as the greatest cause of drowning in South Africa.
Lambinon said it was advisable that those attempting the report an emergency to the NSRI or emergency services, either have the relevant numbers memorized or saved on their phones.
“You should be prepared to report an emergency if something happens, or if you or one of your family members suddenly gets into difficulty. We encourage people to have a safety conscious mindset, and to know what they are going to do if faced with an emergency,” he said.
The City of Cape Town’s Disaster and Risk Management Centre has urged beach goers to adhere to the following beach safety tips:
1. Swim only where there are lifeguards and signs that indicate it is safe to do so. If you find yourself in trouble alert the lifeguard. Swim only where lifeguards are present. Make sure they can see you when you are in the water.
2. Always swim between red and yellow flags. These indicate safe and supervised areas.
3. If you find yourself in trouble raise your arm to attract a lifeguard.
4. Try not to panic as this will weigh you down.
5. If you see someone else drowning try to alert the lifeguard or try and find help.
To report a sea rescue emergency, you may contact the NSRI by dialing the number 112. For emergency services, you may use the toll-free number 10177. For your local sea rescue numbers, visit the NSRI website at www.nsri.org.za. VOC (Mubeen Banderker)