Aerial photograph of a beach in Dubai. Image Credit: Dubai Police

Dubai: Despite a dramatic decline in the number of drowning deaths and injuries this year, Dubai Police are warning beachgoers not to swim after sunset or during high wave events and strong winds in the Gulf.

Six deaths due to drowning so far this year all happened at night when Dubai municipal lifeguards are off duty, police said.

The warning comes as part of an awareness campaign launched on Wednesday to ensure safer beaches in Dubai as scorching summer weather sets in.

Major-General Ahmad Bin Thani, assistant commander-in-chief of Ports Affairs, said there has been a major decline in drowning deaths and related injuries so far this year with nine incidents recorded as compared to 28 incidents in the same period in 2017 and 35 incidents in 2016.

Of all incidents, Brigadier Abdul Qader Al Bannai, director of Ports police station, said six people died and three others were injured so far this year compared to 14 deaths and injuries to four others in the same period in 2017 and 29 deaths and injuries to six persons in 2016.

“We’re keen to provide safe beaches for people away from drowning incidents and other troubles. This campaign will help educate beachgoers about what to do when they go to the beaches and not to swim when there are high waves or bad weather,” Maj-Gen Bin Thani said.

Authorities want to curb drowning deaths by making people more aware of the dangers of unpredictable tidal behaviour and increased surf, especially as evening descends on beaches, sharply reducing visibility.

“As summer has started, many people will go to the beach and we want all beachgoers to be careful and not to swim after sunset as no lifeguards are on duty after sunset. People must follow safety procedures when they go to the beach. Don’t swim if you don’t have swimming skills,” Brig Al Bannai said.

Recently in May, for example, a 35-year-old Indonesian woman was swimming at Umm Suqeim beach and started asking for help from beachgoers.

“She didn’t know how to swim but she went to the sea. She was saved and rescued. In a separate incident, a Pakistani man’s body was found near Al Hamriya area. He didn’t have swimming skills either.”

Meanwhile, Alia Al Harmodi, director of Environment Management Department at Dubai Municipality, said her department has recorded zero deaths in their books because the deaths happened at night outside of the municipality’s responsibility.

310 rescue operations

The municipality assumed beach monitoring during daytime with its first lifeguard, safety and rescue system put in place at beaches in 2016.

“We have 100 professional lifeguards who are deployed on Dubai’s seven beaches. They operate from about 30 rescue stations with latest first aid equipment. When you see a red flag, then know it’s dangerous to swim in the area,” Al Harmodi said.

When the yellow flag is raised, people can swim, but exercise caution and follow the lifeguards’ instructions.

Dubai Municipality statistics show that its lifeguards had conducted 310 rescue operations so far this year.

During the awareness campaign, police patrols will explain safety measures to beachgoers and police will also use social media platforms to tell the public about the safety measures to be followed while swimming at the open beaches.

Swimmers are also advised not to swim close to the rocks or outside the safe zone. At most of the open beaches in Dubai, areas for swimming have been marked through floating buoys and ropes. Swimming past these limits can invite trouble.

Sea ambulance

The Dubai Corporation for Ambulance Services (DCAS) announced that they will have a sea ambulance presence at eight beaches by the end of this year to respond to medical emergencies.

Khalifa Bin Drai, DCAS executive director, said the first phase will see ambulance teams deployed along the seaside at Burj Al Arab, Palm Jumeirah and Al Mamzar.

“We conducted a study which recommended to have sea ambulances in place by the end of the year,” Bin Drai said.

Offences on beaches

Brigadier Ahmad Thani Bin Galita, director of Al Rafaa police station, said they received complaints about some people committing various offences on beaches last year, with infractions ranging from taking pictures of women, disturbing beachgoers to swimming in underwear.

“We have complaints about harassment and people caught taking pictures of women on the beach without their knowledge, or disturbing other beachgoers. People shouldn’t take valuables or large amounts of money when they go to the beaches. We want to have a summer without accidents,” Brig Bin Galita said.

Stay safe

Check the weather and sea forecast on the Dubai Coastal Zone Monitoring Programme website — dubaicoast.ae

Follow the instructional signs posted along the beach

Swimming is prohibited when the red flag is raised

Watch your children at all times and don’t allow them to swim alone and without wearing life jackets

Swim only in designated areas

Swimming is prohibited after sunset

Do not enter water if you don’t know how to swim

Call 999 for emergencies