AN eighty-year-old British holiday maker in Paphos escaped drowning on Sunday morning just after 11am when a lifeguard starting his shift spotted the man in difficulty in the sea and raced in to save him.
The incident highlights the urgent need for more lifeguards and longer hours in Paphos, the head of the Paphos municipality beaches committee, Nicos Similides, told the Cyprus Mail.
“The man had a panic attack because of the size of the waves. The lifeguard noticed him as he was starting his shift and on his way to his position. He entered the sea and brought him out safely. We have a big problem in the tourist area and it needs to be rectified before lives are lost,” he said.
Six ‘official’ beaches fall within the municipality’s boundaries and are hugely popular with both visitors and locals. Similides said he is expecting all of them to receive blue flagged status again this year.
Similides said he would bring up his concerns at a meeting of the beaches committee this week and put forward a suggestion that the municipality should foot the bill for extra lifeguard wages as the amount is ‘not excessive’.
“Instead of relying and waiting on the government to pay for fifty per cent of the lifeguard’s salary, we, as a municipality should take steps and pay it. We need another four of five lifeguards in Paphos and this works out at around an extra 6,000 euros a month, which is nothing compared to the value of a human life.”
Similides said that the beaches must be covered by lifeguards from sunrise to sunset and that working hours will change due to the season. He also noted that a number of Paphos beaches are operating illegally, due to a lack of life saving staff.
“Where we have jet skis on some beaches, which are used as rescues and patrols, we should have two lifeguards on duty, but due to a lack of staff we have only one at a time.”
He said that on these beaches, one lifeguard will cover the hours of 6am until 11am and the hand over to the next who will work 11am until 6pm.
“There should be four covering the shifts and not two, this is what the law stipulates,” he said.
Other beaches, lifeguards working hours vary from a start time of either 10am or 11am.
“This is far too late, locals and tourists often like to swim when it’s cooler and early in the morning, we have to ensure their safety,” he said.