Watch out for strong rip currents

2014-01-02 00:00

LIFESAVING South Africa (LSA) has warned beach-goers of heavy rip currents with spring tides over the next few days.

In a statement, LSA said strong rip currents are expected until January 4 and that the public “must exercise caution”.

“Sea conditions will be more dangerous than normal and people must make sure that they swim at beaches where there are lifeguards on duty, to stay between the red and yellow flags, and to stay where you can maintain a firm footing. Spring tides result in extreme high and extreme low tides.”

LSA said most people drown because they panic and exhaust themselves by needlessly fighting against the current.

“Stay calm, keep your head above the water, and wave for help. The public are also warned not to swim after consuming alcohol.

“If you witness someone in difficulty, call for help from the nearest lifeguard. Do not attempt to rescue a drowning victim unless you have rescue equipment and are trained to use it,” said LSA.

Deon Woodley, who runs the Lifeguard Academy that trains lifeguards throughout southern Africa, said the public can guard against becoming a victim of spring tides simply by knowing at what times the tide changes.

“The biggest threat is when the tide changes. Another factor that contributes is the size of the swell. Existing rip currents during a spring become stronger as there is greater water movement,” said Woodley.

Lifesaving South Africa tips if caught in a rip current:

• Stay calm and wave one hand above your head for assistance.

• Do not swim against the current.

• Conserve your energy, discard any heavy clothing, and swim at a right angle to the current as if you are swimming across a river.

• If this is not possible, allow the current to take you, conserve energy and keep your head above water.

• Rip currents, most often, will dissipate once past the wave line.

• Although further from the shore, this is often a safe zone with little current and no waves. Conserving your energy is the key. This will give rescuers time to reach you.

• Emergency numbers to call are the nearest NSRI (numbers are available on their website) or the nearest ambulance service on 082911, 084124 or 10177.

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