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Too many drowning deaths

The increase in drowning deaths calls for explanations of their causes and reliable statistics

Warning signs on a beach in Murcia.
Warning signs on a beach in Murcia.

The rise in the number of drowning deaths in the first seven months of this year, both at Spanish beaches and other swimming locations, should serve as a wake-up call for public officials to ensure that they are working to increase safety for swimmers. There have been more than 300 drowning deaths in Spain between January and July, which is almost half of the total deaths from accidents on the roads. But since there are no official statistics on these kinds of fatal accidents (the victim count comes from a life guard association), nobody knows exactly what’s causing the increase, which is sparking widespread concerns.

The first step toward solving this issue would be to keep reliable and detailed official statistics

The first step toward solving this issue would be to keep reliable and detailed official statistics. For example, we should know just how many of these accidents are due to recklessness, how many are due to lack of protective measures for swimmers, how many of these deaths are at beaches, reservoirs, rivers or swimming pools, and how many are the result of collapse or a heart attack.

Without this information, it’s impossible to try and diagnose the issue. It can be argued that not enough public funds are devoted to surveillance of Spanish waters, but any such generalization, even if it were true, would be painting over the issue with a broad brush.

Most likely many believe that panic is not justified and that collecting more statistics will simply amplify the restlessness. That is an incorrect assumption. Day-to-day safety – and there’s nothing more common than swimming in the summer – is a basic requirement for the successful tourist industry that people so vehemently are calling for. More than 300 deaths mean that there are a large number of families affected. To ignore the magnitude of the issue and prevent a solution being put in place is a waste of resources. Local governments should already be investigating the causes of these deaths.

English version by Debora Almeida.

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