Drownings on the rise in South Africa

Popular with kiteboarders, Palm Beach (circled) off Alkantstrand was the scene of one drowning and a mass surf rescue on 6 January Photo: Dave Savides

THE SAPS Water Wing Unit attended to 14 fatal drownings across the Zululand region this festive season.

Of these, most were along the immediate coastline, with seven alone occurring during the first week of 2018.

Two drownings occurred on New Year’s Day at the Bay Hall area – one at Naval Island on 4 January and another at Naval Island on 5 January.

There was also one at Pelican Island on 5 January and one at Palm Beach amid a mass rescue last Saturday.

‘My wife and I want to express our gratitude to the Alkantstrand lifeguards,’ said a young woman after the Palm Beach incident last weekend.

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‘My cousin and I went in to help two men who were in difficulty and in seconds the rip tide also swept us out.

‘If it wasn’t for the lifeguards, we would also not be here today.’

On 5 January an 11-year-old girl lost her life when she drowned at eKhombe, Tugela.

The body was recovered the following day.

In December SAPS Water Wing members attended to seven drownings – one in Melmoth, one at Port Durnford, three in the KwaMbonambi policing area (including one in a river at Monzi), one at Mzingazi beach and one at Nhlabane beach.

In the Mzingazi and Nhlabane beach incidents, the bodies are yet to be recovered. Searches have been called off after a week of intensive patrolling on land and water.

In the week preceding Christmas, there was one drowning at Naval Island and another at eSikhaleni.

The body from the eSikhaleni drowning has not been recovered.

National stats

In a report published in the SA Medical Journal last, drowning figures in South Africa was described as ‘stable’ at three deaths per 100 000 population, but is increasing as a proportion of all non-natural deaths.

The report stated that drowning mortality rates are high in children under the age of 15, particularly in those younger than five.

The distribution of mortality across age groups and drowning locations differs substantially between urban centres and provinces.

The authors suggested the need for detailed drowning surveillance to monitor national trends and identify risk factors in all communities.


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Tamlyn Jolly

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