Turkey's disaster agency and universities in Istanbul joined forces to warn the public about deadly rip currents as swimming season approaches in the city.
Istanbul's beaches will brim with swimmers in June or earlier, but concerns remain high about drowning, which claimed the lives of nearly 200 people last summer in Turkey.
"Even if you are an Olympic swimmer, you have no chance of escaping the current. You have to swim parallel to the coast," Professor Şükrü Ersoy of Yıldız Technical University said at a workshop on drowning and rip currents held in Istanbul. The workshop focuses on dangers that currents pose and how to effectively respond to potential drowning cases. Mehmet Güllüoğlu, head of the state-run Disaster and Emergency Management Authority (AFAD), said at the workshop that drowning cases fall in the area of responsibility of multiple agencies, from the Health Ministry to municipalities and the event brought together those with a responsibility in the prevention of drowning and first response. "This is both about defining areas of responsibilities in drowning cases and raising awareness in public about drowning. We need to raise awareness. People should learn how to swim before jumping into the sea. Hundreds die each year in drowning cases. We discuss what measures are necessary, and we need more events like this to discuss the measures," Güllüoğlu said. He pointed out that rip currents were prevalent, especially on Black Sea shores in the north and the Hatay coast in the Mediterranean region of Turkey.
Şükrü Ersoy said every year, an average of 1,000 people drown in Turkey and this number is about 360,000 in the world. "A rip current, in particular, is a sinister threat for swimmers, but people know little about it," Ersoy said. "It is barely noticeable but develops especially near the shore in windy weather. Swimmers can drift away to open water even if they swim in waist-deep water there is a rip current. People should avoid swimming in windy weather or at least should be careful about the "changing color" of currents to find out if there is an active rip current. Ersoy noted that drowning deaths were most common in children up to the age of 5 and urged parents to be more attentive of their children while on the beach. "Even turning your head away from your children while he or she is swimming is a very long time. You can lose him or her," he said, adding that people, no matter what age, should learn to swim. "We need more swimming courses," he emphasized.
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