2023, a dramatic year in drownings: 249 deaths and ‘chaos’ in the administrations

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In 2023, between January 1 and July 31, they have lost their lives in Spain 249 personas in aquatic spaces. This is the worst record since 2018, according to the data collected by the RFESS (Royal Spanish Federation of Rescue and First Aid). Compared to the same period in 2022, there has been an increase of 28 fatalities. If this trend continues, 2023 will end up being one of the worst years in the entire historical series, which spans from 2015, the year in which the RFESS began to count all cases.

In July alone, 79 people have died. Historically, together with August, it is the worst month of the year. Fifty of the deaths have occurred in spaces where there was no lifeguard service at the time of the incident. Unintentional drowning, according to the World Health Organization, is the third cause of death from unintentional injuries and account for 7% of all injury-related deaths. The WHO estimates that every year 236,000 people drown worldwide.

Isabel García Sanz, president of the RFESS, considers that if this is being the worst year since 2018 it is, in part, due to “the need for public institutions, and in this case the Government, to address the implementation of a Strategy State Aquatic Safety to end the chaos between Administrations in the management of a reality that is none other than protecting the lives of people in the aquatic environment. This “regional chaos» is one of the reasons why this increase in deaths occurs in the summer months: «Autonomous regulations on the protection of the life of people in aquatic spaces are, in many cases, disparate, ineffective and far from the reality”, explains García, who also indicates that “these days we are experiencing such surreal situations again, such as having to put up the red flag on a beach because there are no lifeguards or that the municipalities cannot find staff because the CCAAs have dictated rules that are impossible to comply with.

Of the 79 people who have died in July, 43 have died on beaches, 22 in swimming pools, 6 in rivers and 8 in other places. Of all of them, 29 were in monitored environments at the time the drowning occurred. Twenty-one were in a guarded place where, however, the lifeguard service was not active at that time, either because they were out of service hours or because there was no lifeguard on site. The other 29 were in areas that, as federation sources explain, due to their typology – private pools, rivers or ports – did not require lifeguard services. Cataloniajust behind the Valencian Communityhas been the place where more deaths by drowning have been registered in July.

On Wednesday he passed away in Girona a nine-year-old girl who had been hospitalized since last Saturday after being rescued on the Coma beach in Castelló d’Empúries. She was taken by helicopter in critical condition to the Trueta hospital, where she was finally unable to recover. With this there have been three deaths by drowning in Catalonia this week; A 40-year-old Italian man died Tuesday on the Miracle beach in Tarragona and the body of another 48-year-old man was found in Gavà, Barcelona. In total, the community adds 19 deaths due to drowning on the beaches during the summer campaign period, which began on June 15 and will last until September 15. As detailed by Civil Protection, which has urged extreme precautions on beaches, swimming pools and inland waters in the coming days, the Coma beach where the nine-year-old girl died lacks a lifeguard service.

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