4 January 2013

Namibia: Rough Seas Accompany Most Drownings

The most drownings and near-drownings in memory during a single period at the coast was reported during the holiday season, and emergency experts agree that rough seas played a major role.

Four people drowned at the central coast in a span of one week, while 22 near-drowning incidents were reported for the period between December 18 and January 1.

Aubrey Oosthuizen of the West Coast Safety Initiative said this is the most drownings and near-drownings he experienced for as long as he can remember. He has been saving lives in the Erongo Region for over a decade.

Extraordinary high seas and strong currents are believed to have played a major role in most incidences - especially when bathers entered the sea in areas where swimming was not permitted.

"I have not experienced rough seas like this here. I think it is because spring-tide this time around was worst during the day at the peak of the holiday season. In the past it was at night and people would only see the damage the next morning," he explained.

The ocean was so rough on some occasions that the popular swimming spot in Swakopmund, the Mole, had to be closed for bathers because it was too risky.

The first drowning was at Patrysberg near Long Beach on December 21 where 55 year old Lodewyk Puren of Otjiwarongo was diving for crayfish. He was an experienced diver, according to reports. It was uncertain whether Puren may have had a heart-attack while he was diving, or may have experienced other trouble in the water, and was unable to get help in time.

Four days later at Independence Beach at Walvis Bay, another person drowned. He was identified as Johan Schroeder. According to Grant Hull, chief of the Sea Rescue Institute of Namibia (SRIN), information that led to Schroeder's death was uncertain as it was the Namibian Navy that was patrolling the beach there.

On December 27, Dio Torres Gariseb (15) drowned in the Mole at Swakopmund. His body was only recovered on New Year's Day, north of the Swakopmund Waterfront, about five kilometres from the Mole.

The next day, a five year-old boy, Razjeel Enzo September, was swept away by a wave while being in shallow waters south of the rock jetty at the end of the Mole. His body was recovered shortly afterwards in-between the rocks.

Hull also said that "very high seas" contributed to many incidences, with peak swells at 4,6 metres at a stage.

"There was a lot of sunny hot weather drawing the people to the beaches and the water. This, together with the high sea and strong currents proved a dangerous combination," he said.

Petrus van Staden, deputy station commander of the SRIN at Swakopmund, said that although the roughest seas seem to be something of the past, the currents remained "dangerously strong".

"People must not take chances, but be very careful. And where possible, keep the children out of the water - at least the deeper water," he warned.

He said that this year's biggest challenge was the large number of pranks on life savers.

"There were many jokers frustrating our efforts and risking their own lives and the lives of others; and many of these pranks and near-drownings could be ascribed to alcohol. There was a lot of use of alcohol on the beaches," Van Staden said.

He however added that most of the public were very cooperative with the life-savers and that the SRIN also enjoyed alot of help from the public in emergency situations.

Meanwhile from elsewhere in the country more drownings were reported. According to police spokesperson, Deputy Commissioner Edwin Kanguatjivi, Shafodino Simeon (6) drowned at Onyamangunda village in the Onesi constituency in the Omusati Region on January 1. Kanguatjivi said Johannes Nangombe's body was found near his homestead. He apparently played with some other children from the village when it started raining. He did not make it back home. His body was found in a pond of water, the police officer said.

Nampa also reported of another three children drowning in Kavango and Otjozondjupa the past week.

According to Kanguatjivi Maria Musenge from Mashare village (Kavango) drowned in the Kavango River on Christmas day. She was eight.

On Thursday, two boys aged nine drowned at farm Laarplaas near the Osire Refugee Camp, Nampa reported. The victims, who have been identified as Puvitanda Muyoro and Kahungirue Kaapehi, had reportedly been attempting to swim in a water pan when the incident occurred.


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