High winds and recklessness, a tragic combination
Rip currents caused by the wind and ignoring the red and yellow warning flags are the cause of most accidents on the beaches of Malaga
So far this year, 11 people have drowned off the beaches of Malaga province and the emergency services are attributing their deaths to the strong ‘levante’ wind, which is particularly prevalent this summer, and the recklessness of people who ignore the yellow and red warning flags.
Over 480 people have had to be rescued from the sea by lifeguards on the Costa del Sol this summer, many of them in the past few days when the waves have been high. The death of a 41 year-old man in La Carihuela on Sunday has led the Spanish Lifesaving Federation to reiterate its warnings about the dangers of swimming when there is a levante wind, and early in the morning or late in the evening when no lifesaving services are in operation.
The levante is expected to continue along much of the Malaga coast, so the red flags will be flying again in the forthcoming days, says meteorologist José Luis Escudero: “There were a couple of calmer days this week, but then the wind started again and it will continue until the weekend.”
The flags which indicate the sea conditions are the responsibility of the lifeguards, and their service is run by the local councils. Sources at Medios Acuáticos, the company contracted to provide lifesaving services in Malaga, Torremolinos, Benalmádena, Fuengirola and Marbella, say people are not aware enough of the dangers of going into the sea on days when the waves are high, even when the wind doesn’t seem very strong. Being overconfident and ignoring the warning flags are the main reasons for accidents in the water.
Last Sunday, in Torremolinos alone, lifeguards had to rescue about 20 people from the sea even though the red flags were flying on the beaches.
“People are on holiday for a week or two, or three, and they want to enjoy themselves. They don’t want the sea to spoil their plans, but the dangers are very real. When a red flag is flying nobody should go swimming, but we end up rescuing dozens of people,” say sources at Medios Acuáticos.
The man who died in La Carihuela went into the sea at about 10am, but the lifeguard service doesn’t start until 11. Three surfers, with the help of two other people, brought his body to the shore and they tried to resuscitate him for more than ten minutes, until the ambulance arrived. “We tried to act as quickly as possible but the waves were very strong. When we got him to the beach we discovered he had no pulse,” says one of them. The medics even injected him twice with adrenaline, but it was impossible to revive him.
“It was awful. It wasn’t the first time we have helped someone in the water, but luckily most of the time things turn out alright. People always think nothing will happen to them in the sea, and they’re wrong,” says one of the surfers.
On the same day, in Mijas, a 27 year-old man saved two swimmers off Calaburras beach. On Monday, also with the red flag flying, a father and his two children had to be rescued by lifeguards in Torremolinos. The Spanish Lifesaving Federation points out that this type of recklessness also endangers the lifeguards and other people who often rush to help without knowing what they’re doing.
The emergency services are calling for standard regulations to be applied in every municipality, and stress that swimming in the sea is only advisable if the green flag is flying