Extended lifeguard hours, a move that was long overdue, may have been huge factor in saving the life of a 72-year-old Norwegian tourist earlier in the week in Paphos, officials say.
The tourist was saved from drowning on Wednesday due to the quick actions of a boat owner and lifeguards.
According to the head of Paphos beaches committee, Nicos Similides, the holidaymaker was swimming in front of the Olympic Lagoon Hotel in Paphos, when he lost consciousness. Luckily, a boat owner saw the man and took him ashore. He called for the help of the two lifeguards on duty at Sodap beach, which is close by.
The lifeguards administered first aid and the man regained consciousness before being rushed to hospital.
Similides said: “Most of the lifeguards have stopped work as the official end of the swimming season is October 31. The exceptions are at Bania and Sodap beaches.”
Lifeguards at Sodap recently saw their working hours extended from 5pm until 7pm and according to the head of the Cyprus Life Saving Federation, Polis Pallikaros, the beach is now supervised by lifeguards all year round.
Pallikaros said that this incident highlights the need for at least some beaches across the island being manned by lifeguards all year long.
“As it is now November and the end of the summer season most of the lifeguards have stopped work until the new season. There should at least be lifeguards on duty at a couple of the most popular beaches in all of the coastal towns all of the year,” he said.
He added that the government have to agree to extend the summer season and said that this year, after discussions with Interior Minister, Socratis Hasikos, the period for which lifeguards are on duty was increased and more were hired for high season.
“There need to be more changes though to increase their hours, months and number,” he stressed.
However, he added that it’s down to each municipality to ensure that they lodge a request with the ministry if they want to extend lifeguard working hours. “It’s down to them to take this step and it should be done now,” he said.
Similides added that this was the first time that lifeguards were stationed at Sodap beach after October 31 and they would remain there for as long as the weather holds.
Bania- the municipal baths- is the ‘exception to the exception’, he said, noting that it is the only beach in Cyprus which is ‘open’ all year long.
“There is a lifeguard there from 7am for the duration of the morning all year long and the municipality pays for this. We would like these hours to be extended though.”
Similides, who is only responsible for beaches within the Paphos municipality boundaries, said that these two beaches are adequate to cover the needs of winter tourism for the town, but noted that perhaps Coral Bay and a beach in Latsi should also be ‘open ‘ all year long.
He said that Paphos municipality had applied to the government to employ four extra lifeguard for the 2017 season.
“We will have to wait and see what they decide,” he said.
The same two lifeguards involved in the latest incident were congratulated for their swift actions back in July after they saved two men from possible drowning at SODAP beach late in the afternoon, just days after lifeguards saw their working hours extended from 5pm until 7pm after three drownings in the space of a week. One of which occurred just after the lifeguard had left for the day.