Drowning figures show no improvement this year in Latvia

During this swimming season, the State Fire and Rescue Service (VUGD) has already removed 11 dead bodies from the water. Although it is not very hot yet and fewer people go swimming, VUGD estimates that this year there will be the same number of drownings as other years, Latvian Radio reported on June 20. 

This summer, compared to last, is much cooler, but from the beginning of the swimming season on May 15 to mid-June, rescuers have already received several calls where aid had to be provided to people on the water. 11 drowned people have been removed from water bodies during this swimming season, reports VUGD.

In Latvia, the situation with water safety is not improving, says Zane Gemze, founder of the Organization Peldēt droši (Swim safe). About 130 people drown every year. There are a number of reasons for this, but one of the main things is the public's education, said Gemze.

“People live in myths and beliefs that have been entrenched long ago, about drowning in the sea or other large bodies of water. But in fact, drowning happens in ponds, lakes, and rivers. It shows that people are swimming in water bodies that are easily reachable to them, not those that are safe,” explains Gemze.

Often the closest bodies of water are overgrown and rocky, which threatens the safety of a swimmer.

The second cause of accidents is recklessness, said Zane Gemze. Most commonly, men aged 35 to 50 are reckless on the water.

“Reckless behavior – swimming, for example, to the middle of the lake or across it, or swimming under the influence of alcohol. Also fishing without security vests, accidentally falling out of the boat. [..] Overall, 75% of the drowned are men. And around 10-15% on average are children,” says Gemze.

This year the State Fire and Rescue Service has identified 40 deaths on the water.

Latvian State Forests recently issued a plea to the public not to swim in dangerous gravel pits and quarries, while another public information campaign is telling people not to dive into waters of uncertain depth as they might break their necks.

As reported every year by LSM, Latvia consistently tops European league tables for drownings per capita with dozens of deaths both in summer and in winter when reckless fishermen regularly fall through the ice.

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