By Bejay Browne
AS SIZZLING temperatures are set to hit Paphos this weekend officials have called for an extension to lifeguard working hours.
The head of the Paphos municipality beaches committee Andreas Chrysanthou said extending the working hours was imperative to enable better supervision of busy beaches.
The call came after two drownings so far this week. On Monday a male German tourist aged 81 drowned in Ayia Napa, and on Tuesday a woman from Nicosia aged 67 drowned off Kato Pyrgos.
“Many people, locals and visitors will be heading to the beach this weekend and in the coming weeks will cool off in the sea. We are selling the island as a tourist destination, promoting the sun, beaches and the sea and it’s crucial that we invest in the lifeguards and increase the budget for this service,” he said.
Chrysanthou said that countless people choose to swim in the morning or late afternoon to avoid the sun’s strong ultraviolet rays, and he vehemently believes that lifeguards working hours should be extended for a further three hours a day across the islands beaches. He said his aim is to have lifeguards on Paphos beaches from 9am to 7.30pm.
“This would have to be done with the help of other authorities as this just isn’t possible using only local municipality’s budgets,” he said.
Currently, the summer working hours are from 11am to 5.30pm off season and 11am to 6.30pm during the high season of July, August and September.
Peyia municipality has three main beaches, Coral Bay, Corallia and St George’s.
Coral Bay is one of Paphos district’s most popular beaches, with up to 2,000 people visiting the area on a daily basis during the summer months, according to Peyia municipality beaches head Nicos Konnikos.
He described the current position is unbelievable.
“We were unable to place sunbeds and umbrellas on Coral Bay beach on May 1 as there were no lifeguards or buoys in the sea. The government only seems to view the tourist season as running from June 1 until the beginning of October,” he said.
Konikkos said that despite the financial crisis, efforts must be made to allocate funds to extend the months and hours which lifeguards are working. He said that even placing supervision on beaches one hour earlier would be a great help.
“This isn’t the responsibility of the municipality but the district office. Many tourists visit beaches earlier in the morning and must be protected,” he said.
Chrysanthou said that even without the financial backing of the local district office, there would be an extension to lifeguards hours on Paphos municipality beaches during July and August.
In the meantime, he is pressing to extend the hours from 10am to 7pm. For this he would need extra funds from the state. The beaches head hopes to meet with the Paphos district office in the coming days to discuss the possibility off co- financing the extra hours.
He said: “Even if this isn’t possible, we will defiantly extend the hours by one to one and a half hours – from 10-7pm- and we will absorb the cost. We managed to save some money for this from our budget”
There are 26 or so lifeguards due to work in the entire district and ‘Ta Bania’ municipal beach in Kato Paphos is the only area to have a lifeguard assigned all year round as it’s popular for winter swimming as well.