Holidays: thousands pack durban beaches

2008-01-02 00:00

“This is the day we fear, the day when beaches are packed,” Chris Botha, spokesman for Netcare 911, said yesterday.

Emergency personnel said that drownings are the major danger at New Year and yesterday was no exception. According to the National Sea Rescue Institute’s Craig Lambinon, two people drowned along the KZN coast — an 18-year-old male, who was swept out to sea at Ballito, and a young woman, who died at Richards Bay.

Lambinon said that at Ballito, paramedics arrived after lifeguards pulled the teen from the water, but were unable to resuscitate him.

A bystander rescued a man and a woman from drowning at Richards Bay. While the man was unharmed, attempts to resuscitate the woman were terminated on the scene, said Lambinon.

He said there was also a near drowning at the Umhlali river mouth, where a 25-year-old was resuscitated before being taken to hospital in a serious condition.

He said that so far there have been 17 fatal drownings countrywide, five along the KZN coast.

There were also four rescues at Zinkwazi. Lambinon said bathers were lucky that the Netcare 911 helicopter could drop someone into the water to pull them to safety. All swimmers were unharmed, he said.

Apart from the drownings, emergency services said despite the crowds, the Durban coastline was quiet and peaceful with only a few minor incidents being reported. ER 24 spokesman Derek Banks said paramedics only dealt with a single accident on the N2 near Nandi Drive yesterday. No one was killed.

New Year, too, was quiet. Botha said paramedics prepared for the worst as late night revellers welcomed in the New Year, but were pleasantly surprised.

Banks said there were just two major accidents on Monday night — one in the centre of Durban where traffic lights were faulty and one on the M4 near Virginia airport where a vehicle rolled. Five people were taken to hospital.

Apart from fender benders and a few drunken incidents, police, too, said there were no major incidents.

Superintendent Thomas Tyala of Durban Metro Police said the peaceful New Year had much to do with controls put in place and the new fireworks policy. The eThekwini Municipality also banned drunken swimmers. When lifeguards went off duty at 6.30 pm on Monday night, the water was out of bounds for all.

After Durban, the iSimangaliso Wetland Park (formerly the Greater St Lucia Wetland Park) reported the second busiest beaches on the KZN coastline. The 230-km stretch includes one third of the KwaZulu-Natal coastline.

Commercial director Terri Castis said: “As part of making sure the park is accessible to its 620 000 direct neighbours, no visitor entry fee was charged to the Sodwana Bay or St Lucia beach sections. Sodwana Bay had over 30 000 day visitors and St Lucia 20 000.”

There were no incidents reported.

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