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Put safety first around water

Given Victoria’s more than 1000 kilometres of ocean and bay beaches, 85,000 kilometres
of rivers and creeks, 588 public and commercial swimming pools, and many more backyard pools, it is no wonder that drownings are an all too often occurrence. This summer, and during the past six months, the number of such tragedies has reached record levels.

Forty-two people have drowned since July last year, including seven in the past two weeks. That is 15 more than the five-year average. During a year dominated by a virus that forced most Victorians to spend an inordinate amount of time cooped up at home, it is an added tragedy that for some, finally enjoying time outside has resulted in such terrible consequences.

Experts stress all children should know how to swim, but fewer have been turning up to lessons, even before COVID-19.

Experts stress all children should know how to swim, but fewer have been turning up to lessons, even before COVID-19.Credit:Newsday

Statistics show a disproportionate number of those who drown are male, mostly the young and the elderly. Authorities are also increasingly worried about men under the age of 45 who “overestimate” their abilities. But as recent drownings have shown, it can happen to anyone, at any time, in a wide range of situations.

A Melbourne post office worker died after she was swept off a rock by a wave with three others at Bushrangers Bay on the Mornington Peninsula. A Berwick teacher died when she tried to rescue a 14-year-old girl at Venus Bay on the South Gippsland Coast. A four-year-old Doveton girl who was pulled unconscious from a lake in Melbourne’s south-east died several days later. A 58-year-old man died near Anglesea after heading out in a small boat that overturned.

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