MUSCAT, Dec 6 – Despite warnings and safety measures, tragedies continue to occur in Omani beaches because of non-compliance with rules.
While children are freely allowed to venture into the water by parents, it is a common sight to see people swimming late into the evening though beach safety regulations prohibit such activities after sunset.
Experts say undercurrents have been detected lately in waters that otherwise had been previously calm.
“This means these areas are no longer safe for swimming. Yet, beachgoers continue to do so,” said a swimming expert and house club in-charge at a leading resort in Muscat.
According to the General Authority for Civil Defence and Ambulance (PACDA), the number of drowning deaths had more than doubled in 2016 compared with the year before.
PACDA officials handled 172 water-related emergencies at sea, wadis, pools and wells last year. A total of 23 people, including 13 children, died, while 149 people were rescued.
A total of 113 water-related emergencies were recorded in 2015 compared with 150 cases in 2014.
The expert, while sharing horrific tales at beaches, told the Observer that many residents ignore safety warnings while going for a swim.
“To get maximum fun, most beachgoers get adventurous. But they forget that it takes less than a minute to get washed away by the waves,” he said.
Every year, people die because they don’t respect the power of the ocean. High winds, riptides and creatures of the sea can all lead to disaster, so just be aware of these things before you go out and tackle the ocean, he said.
Keeping beachgoers safe is becoming a nerve-wrecking task for lifeguards, he added.
Children make up the majority of drowning victims as they are often not strong enough to swim against powerful currents.
Last week, in a tragic incident, an Omani man and his six-year-old child drowned near Barr Al Jissah in Muscat during the National Day holidays.
His nine-year-old child was taken to the hospital in a critical condition. It was a citizen who spotted the father and children and recovered the bodies.
Although the Royal Oman Police (ROP) and PACDA issue warnings from time to time, most people do not follow the safety rules.
“Many parents are careless with their children and allow them to swim without lifejackets. Parents should stay close to children because they are really vulnerable in water. Even expert swimmers can get swept away if the tides are strong,” said a PACDA official.
At the same time, in the capital area of Muscat, many beaches do not have signboards and lifeguards. Even if there are any, the beachgoers do not stop to read the instructions or pay heed to them.