In summer, lakes and rivers invite
When it gets hot outside, many people long for cool water, including in lakes and rivers. Nevertheless, fewer people died in swimming accidents in 2021 – a real surprise for the DLRG lifeguards.
In Germany, at least 299 people drowned in swimming accidents last year – fewer than in over 20 years. The number fell by 20.9 percent compared to the previous year, and it also fell for the third year in a row, as the German Life Saving Society (DLRG) announced. It was a “positive surprise” because many people bathed in rivers and at unguarded bathing spots during the Corona crisis, said DLRG President Ute Vogt. At the same time, only 40 percent of ten-year-olds could swim safely.
Nevertheless, Vogt stated: “This means that for 2021 we have recorded the lowest level since 2000, when we started to systematically collect the numbers.” The statistics do not include the around 180 victims of the flood disaster last year – even if there were many probably drowned from it.
With a share of 85 percent, most fatal swimming accidents occurred in inland waters, 131 (2020: 175) people died in lakes and ponds, and 95 (130) people lost their lives in rivers. “The greatest risk of drowning is still in lakes and rivers,” Vogt emphasized. In swimming pools, the number of fatal bathing accidents rose from 6 to 7, in the sea from 21 to 26, but bathing there is comparatively safe. According to the information, fatal bathing accidents occur primarily away from guarded beaches – or outside of the rescuers’ working hours. In the baths, mostly full-time employees ensure security, on the coasts there are thousands of volunteers from the beginning of May to the end of September.
“On average, men have more swimming accidents than women,” said Knabe. They were more prone to risky behavior. “Accidents often happen with young people because they have been drinking alcohol or because they want to impress their friends with a dare.”
In older people, the body often fails and this leads to a circulatory collapse or even a heart attack. “One cause is that people are overheated by the sun and don’t get used to the cold water enough before jumping in.”
Outdoor pool, lake, river – fatal accidents! What you should definitely pay attention to when bathing
– Do not go into unfamiliar waters: The German Life Saving Society (DLRG) generally recommends only going into the water at guarded bathing areas. Swimming in rivers is particularly dangerous: there can be currents or suction effects that are not visible from land, for example on bridge pillars or through obstacles under water. Pleasure and commercial vessels that travel the river also harbor dangers that are often underestimated. – Heed flags: A single flag in the color combination red over yellow indicates that lifeguards are on duty. If yellow, all non-swimmers must leave the water. If a red flag flies on the shore, it means that the water conditions are life-threatening, for example due to high waves, thunderstorms or strong currents. Then no one should stop bathing. – Cool off before bathing: When it is very hot outside in summer, the body heats up a lot. A sudden change in temperature caused by going into cold water causes a circulatory reaction if the body is not gradually cooled down. This means that the person affected suffers cardiovascular arrest, tips over and sinks silently. As a result, people in the vicinity often do not notice that someone is drowning. – Never swim alone: People often overestimate their strength and then don’t manage to get out of the water fast enough. This can be because the other shore seemed closer than it actually is at first glance, the currents are stronger or colder than expected, or a thunderstorm is brewing. – The correct behavior in an emergency: If you witness a swimming accident, it is best to first alert the rescue service by dialing 112. Only trained lifeguards should attempt to rescue a drowning person from the water. Everyone else only puts themselves in danger, warns the Lower Saxony/Bremen state association of the Johanniter-Unfall-Hilfe. It is therefore better to hand him a floating object like a lifebelt and try to pull him ashore.
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