As the UK hots up, more people are taking to open waterways to cool off and this has resulted in tragic accidents. Safety campaigners have launched a drowning prevention drive after figures showed 277 people lost their lives in accidents in the water in the UK in the past 12 months.
A total of 50 organizations have joined forces on World Drowning Prevention Day as World Health Organisation statistics estimate 235,600 people drown every year globally. It is among the 10 leading causes of death for children.
More than 90% of drowning deaths occur in rivers, lakes, wells, domestic water storage vessels, and swimming pools in poorer countries, with children and adolescents in rural areas disproportionately affected. The Irish Coast Guard and RNLI have dealt with 1,100 incidents so far this year, according to the latest figures. In the UK, most deaths by drowning occur in the three summer months, with July being the worst. Earlier this month 14-year-old Brian Sasu, drowned off Tagg’s Island near Hampton Court in southwest London after taking a dip to cool off in the UK’s heatwave when his school closed early.
And teenager Robert Hattersley also lost his life after getting into trouble while swimming in the River Tyne near Ovingham, Northumberland. The 13-year-old’s family was left devastated. In 2021, 277 people died after drowning in the UK, compared to 254 in 2020 and 233 in 2019.
Heading the prevention initiative, which is called Respect The Water, is the National Water Safety Forum. It aims to halve by 2026, the number of people in the UK who accidentally die in the water each year.
Robert Gofton from the Royal Life Saving Society told the media that before the COVID-19 pandemic, there was a steady decrease in the number of UK drowning accidents but in 2020 and 2021 that trend had reversed.
He said: The predominant factor for that is, we believe because more people are staying at home and migrating to the coast and inland waters when it gets hot and that, unfortunately, is resulting in tragedies of people drowning.
Advice before taking to the water
Mr. Gofton said the most important thing was to go to a lifeguarded beach or aqua park, to always try to go with friends and keep each other safe, and in open water not to go too deep (below chest height) and stay close to the edge or shoreline.
He added that water in the UK is colder than it looks in deep lakes or rivers it can be as low as 15 degrees.
Although the ambient temperature, especially this summer, has been hot, water takes a long time to heat up and sometimes if a person jumps into cold water an involuntary action occurs that involves a gulp of air which sometimes leads to also swallowing water and on occasion, to drowning.