Latvia, Lithuania dominate EU drowning deaths

Take note – story published 4 years ago

Baltic states Lithuania and Latvia have significantly more drownings each year than other European Union member states, according to the latest statistics from Eurostat.

The figures released August 9 cover the year 2016, when there were 5,537 deaths of European Union (EU) residents caused by "accidental drowning and submersion".

The figure has been falling each year since a peak of 6,090 deaths in 2013 and corresponds to an EU average of 1.1 deaths per 100,000 residents.

But the death rate was far higher in Lithuania and Latvia, with more than 6 deaths per 100,000 residents. In contrast, the lowest rates were in Italy, Malta and Portugal (all 0.4 deaths per 100 000).

Lithuania recorded 6.46 deaths per 100,000 residents with Latvia not far behind on 6.10 deaths. Third placed Romania had half as many deaths (3.2 per 100,000) and Baltic state Estonia was in fourth place on 3.1 deaths.

There is also a notable disparity between the death rates for males and females. In Latvia the death rate among males is an amazing 10.36 per 100,000 residents while the rate among women is 2.56 - lower than the male equivalent, but still far above the overall EU average of drowning deaths among women (0.47 per 100,000). In fact, Latvian women were more likely to drown even than women in Lithuania, where the death rate was 2.06.

In Latvia there are generally two main seasons when drownings occur: one in summer when people seek to cool down in rivers and lakes and another in winter when ice fishermen venture onto unstable ice and pay the ultimate price.  

The State Fire and Rescue Service (VUGD) issues regular warnings to the public about the dangers of drowning, particularly stressing that alcohol and swimming do not mix. Nevertheless tragedies continue to happen with the VUGD pulling 118 bodies from the water last year and 65 so far this year.


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