By Constantinos Psillides
AN 84-year-old woman from Nicosia collapsed and drowned in shallow water shortly before noon on Monday at the Pyla beach along the Larnaca-Dhekelia road.
Her death brings to three the number of people who have apparently drowned in just two days after a 20-year-old woman and a 71-year-old man drowned on Sunday
Police report said that, while in shallow water a few metres into the sea, the woman lost consciousness, fell into the water and drowned. Subsequent efforts to revive her failed.
An autopsy, scheduled for Tuesday at the Larnaca General, is expected to determine the woman’s cause of death.
On Sunday 20-year-old Irene Georgiou, from Kokkinotrimithia, in Nicosia, drowned off the “Fanari” beach in Pervolia, Larnaca, at around 2pm.
Police said Georgiou, who was swimming with three friends, was carried away by strong currents. There are no lifeguards on duty at the specific beach.
According to the police, the four friends were caught in a current and only one of them knew how to swim.
The swimmer carried one of the women to shore and sought assistance while Georgiou and her friend were crying for help.
Lifeguards from a neighbouring beach scrambled to the area on jet-skis but found Georgiou unconscious. None of the others were injured.
She was brought to shore where lifeguards tried to resuscitate her before she was rushed to the Larnaca general hospital where doctors pronounced her dead on arrival.
Earlier on Sunday, a 71-year-old Greek Cypriot man was found unconscious in the sea off Malama beach in Paralimni.
He was rushed to Famagusta hospital where doctors pronounced him dead on arrival.
Police said a port-mortem will he carried out on Monday to determine the cause of death.
The 71-year old was vacationing in the area with his wife.
“More often than not, it’s panic that kills people,” said the head of the Limassol Lifeguard Association, Michalis Kyprianou.
“You never, ever, swim against the current. Never. Rip currents are strong and will wear you out. What you do is go with the flow and try to remain in a horizontal position and wait for help or if you are a good swimmer go either left or right of the current and swim to the beach at an angle,” Kyprianou said.
CALL TO EXTEND WORKING HOURS
THE CYPRUS Lifeguards Association (CLA) issued a statement on Monday requesting that the state immediately takes measures to expand lifeguard working hours.
“Legislation is needed to regulate swimmer safety, define public beaches, stipulate the equipment each beach should have and outline the qualifications and duties of professional lifeguards as well as working hours,” read the statement, issued in response to the three drownings over the weekend.
According to thr CLA, a legal amendment has been in the House since 2005.
At present, lifeguards usually work from 9:00 am to 6:00 pm but length of employment, working hours and numbers depend mostly on the budget of the cash-strapped local authorities.
Local authorities in Cyprus are currently facing financial difficulties. For example Yeroskipou municipality, which is responsible for some of the beaches in Paphos, had its power cut on Friday due to unpaid electricity bills.
According to Wing Commander Marios Florides, head of the Cyprus Search and Rescue Centre, all public beaches run by municipalities have lifeguards on duty. On some beaches lifeguards are employed by hotels.
“Some of them work from April to November … while others work anything in between. It depends on the municipality,” Florides said on Monday.
Florides said there were no data available for the total number of public beaches and how many are run by municipalities.
But in the Limassol district for instance, from the 80km coastline only 21km are organised public beaches.
Out of that 21km, 30 per cent are run by municipalities and have lifeguards on duty who are employed only for July and August.
There have been calls to increase lifeguards’ working hours to cover early morning and late afternoon. According to the head of the Paphos municipality beach committee, Andreas Chrysanthou, “extending the working hours is imperative to enable better supervision of busy beaches.”
Chrysanthou said that countless people choose to swim in the morning or late afternoon to avoid the sun’s strong rays, and lifeguard working hours should be extended for a further three hours a day.