LIFEGUARDS from Limassol and Paphos staged a protest on Friday demanding extension of their working hours to prevent more lives from being lost on Cyprus shores.
The protest follows a number of deaths in the past month that occurred when lifeguards were off duty. The working hours for lifeguards in Limassol and Paphos are from 11am to 5.30pm, but they argue that a lot of people go for a swim early in the morning or later in the afternoon.
In Paphos, the protest took place at the municipal baths. Lifeguards there said that they work at least an hour less than their colleagues in other districts, due to strained public spending.
Speaking on behalf of the lifeguards, Victor Loverdos said that they are “unanimously asking” for an increase in their numbers, as well as the introduction of shifts so that posts are not left unmanned.
“Lives are being lost on our beaches because there are no lifeguards. It is unthinkable” Demetris Athanasiou said.
There are 36 lifeguards in Paphos, he said, who currently work from 11am to 5.30pm on weekdays and 10.30am to 6pm on weekends.
Another lifeguard, Pantelis Moisis, said that in some cases, there is a great distance between watch towers, and as a result, they cannot supervise all swimmers.
The head of the beaches committee, Polis Chrysochous mayor Angelos Georgiou, said that the reinforcement of lifeguard units has been an ongoing demand, and that a meeting is to take place in mid-July with the participation of Interior Minister Socratis Hasikos.
In Limassol, lifeguards held a protest at Akti Olympion.
The deputy head of the lifeguards association, Tasos Nicolaou, said that none of the decisions taken so far as regards the extension of working hours has been implemented.
He added that all deaths at sea occur during hours when lifeguards are not on duty. They had suggested to the authorities last year, he said, for the extension of hours, especially in the summer between 6am and 8pm.
“This was never implemented. Over time, many lives have been lost because there were no lifeguards to help,” Nicolaou said.
Winter swimmers also joined the protest saying they supported the demands of the lifeguards as many people choose to swim early in the morning or late in the evening.
Meanwhile, Ayia Napa municipality announced on Friday the extension of the working hours of its lifeguards by one hour, from 9am to 7pm, until August 31.
The municipality said that the aim is for “all swimmers to have the necessary surveillance until late afternoon to avoid unpleasant events. It also aims at the best possible service to thousands of visitors who flock daily to the 14 beaches of Ayia Napa”.
All organised beaches of the municipality, it said, are manned by 30 lifeguards for around seven months per year.