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Volunteer lifeguards rescue tourist family from rip currents

Volunteer lifeguards rescue tourist family from rip currents

The lifeguards spotted the swimmers in distress at midday and sprang into action. Another swimmer nearby also required rescue, as all four tried to swim against the rip current and quickly fatigued in the strong current, one senior lifeguard told The Phuket News.

“Senior Surin-Bangtao lifeguard Amnad Chuasaman and lifeguard Warren Serrie saw to it that the family of three, plus a female Russian tourist, made it to shore safely,” the lifeguard explained. “It takes frequent practice and skill to maneuver the large rescue boards through the waves, and return victims to shore. If the board overturns in the surf, it can strike the victims and cause injury. Multiple victims make a rescue even harder. In this case, the rescuers reached the victims early, and the swimmers in distress recovered fully after a few minutes of rest on shore,” he added.

The “invisible” rips made it very difficult for all but experienced beach swimmers to safely enter the beachfront waters, the lifeguard noted. “It’s very likely the average person will not be able to spot the dangerous area. Even in relatively calm ocean conditions like we have seen the last few days, rip currents strong enough to put swimmers in danger continue to form on Phuket’s west coast beaches,” he said.

“Modern lifeguarding relies heavily on prevention, rather than dramatic and dangerous rescues, to effectively prevent ocean drownings. These new methods involve taking ‘preventive actions’ before swimmers are in severe distress and need prolonged rescues.

“Preventive actions include marking unsafe areas, and keeping swimmers away from these areas when possible, but this requires more lifeguards than performing rescues only. Sufficient guards must be available to communicate with visitors along the entire length of the beach while leaving at least two lifeguards to watch over the rest of the beach, for prevention to be effective,” he added.

The number lifeguards on Phuket’s beaches, however, has been steadily reduced over the past four years. This year’s lifeguard staffing was insufficient to effectively implement prevention techniques. For example, in 2013, Surin Beach was staffed with eight guards. This year, that number was five.

“Preventing drownings before they occur requires constant surveillance of people in and out of the water. New research indicates that weak and non-swimmers can get into trouble surprisingly fast. Once these inexperienced ocean users drift into the rip channel, where the water becomes suddenly deeper, they are pulled out and can drown in 60 to 90 seconds,” the lifeguard warned.

“In this case, lifeguards were watching this dangerous area and responded at the first sign of distress. They continue to protect Surin Beach, even though they have received no pay since October 1,” he explained. Source: Phuket News

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