The association of lifeguards on Monday renewed their plea for more lifeguards and increased working hours in the wake of three drownings in the last week.
Currently, in Limassol and Paphos the lifeguards work from 10am to 5pm, but lots of people swim outside those hours.
One of the deaths occurred only minutes after the lifeguard’s shift ended, at 5.19pm on June 20 in Ayios Tychonas in the Limassol area. Though a lifeguard was in the area he could not access the tower where the vital oxygen supply was kept as it was locked and the 76-year-old woman.
Ioulia Evangelou, a 66-year-old woman from Pano Lefkara, was the next victim on June 23. She got into trouble after she had gone for a swim at Governor’s beach where no lifeguards are on duty in June.
“At Governor’s beach there is currently no lifeguard at all,” said Polis Pallikaros from the lifeguard association. “The agreement is that the Limassol district committee pays 50 per cent and the town the rest. There is a dispute as the town only wants to pay for July and August.”
The third drowning was on Sunday at a beach where there are no lifeguards simply because people are not supposed to swim there at all. A 58-year-old Polish tourist was found dead in the sea in the Tafidon Vassileou area near Paphos which has been the scene of at least 15 drownings in the last decade due to its treacherous currents.
“This beach is closed and there are signs warning people that it is very dangerous and telling them not to enter the water, but they don’t listen,” Pallikaros explained.
He also commented on the working hours in Limassol and Paphos with which the association has long been unhappy.
“We suggest that people don’t enter the water from 12pm to 4pm at all, so our working hours don’t make sense,” Pallikaros added. “The only way forward to extend the working hours is legislation, which we have suggested since 2005. There is an economic crisis, but we see it differently. We are a tourist area, and 60 to 70 per cent of our income comes from tourism so we need to protect the tourists.”
On the Dassoudi beach in Limassol, for example, there were thousands of people on the beach by 9am on Sunday, before lifeguards are on duty, according to the association’s Facebook site.
People are unprotected “because of the indifference of the state and in particular the responsible ministry (the interior ministry),” the Facebook post said. “Where are you now newly elected MPs when the people who have elected you need you?”
The lifeguards said the situation was unacceptable and stated they have sent letters to all the relevant authorities: the interior minister, mayors and the Cyprus Tourism Organisation.
Last September, the Paphos municipality had already called on the interior ministry to extend the hours, suggesting the ministry made a decision by this year at least.
Efforts to initiate changes to this effect began in 2002, and since 2005 there has been a pending draft legislation that was submitted to the interior ministry “for securing the profession that would regulate everything that needs to be regulated for our beaches,” Pallikaros said.