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Greece - a Champion in Drowning

13 July 2014 / 19:07:02  GRReporter
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"Please, write something about drowning, the situation is out of control." These words belong to the head of Forensic Medicine in Athens, Nikos Karakukis, who is directly familiar with the problem. As he says, every summer his ward is full of bodies of drowned people. Official figures confirm that too.

Since the beginning of summer until last Thursday, in Greek seas there drowned 71 people, most of whom adult men. "From what I've noticed, most of the men do not comply with safety rules and go into the water before three hours have passed since their last meal. After eating, the blood is transferred to the stomach to assist digestion and as a result the blood supply to the heart is diminished, which imposes a risk, especially for persons with health problems, and the elderly, " said Kakrakukis for Kathimerini newspaper, explaining the problem he has encountered.

Negligence on behalf of the bathers themselves could be one of the significant reasons for the first place of Greece in drowning, but it's not the only one. The powerlessness and indifference shown by local authorities in terms of compliance with law on the mandatory presence of lifeguards on beaches is considered another very important reason for the hundreds of deaths each year caused by drowning.

Imposing Fines

As confirmed, some coastal municipalities systematically and purposefully ignore the appointment of lifeguards for the most visited beaches and leave bathers unprotected, underestimating the role of lifeguards in preserving human lives, or misapplying Article 7 of the Presidential Decree 23/2000 (by hiring lifeguards through intransparent procedures and private contracts without competition or technical study).

"The imposition of fines by the local port authorities on the municipalities or municipal operators concerning busy beaches was not enough to stop this practice, as the fines are defined by the Port Authority and are rarely paid," is written in a complaint by the Association of Lifeguard Training Schools under the Ministry of the Navy.

What Municipalities Say

On the other hand, the municipalities, blamed for the lack of lifeguards, present their version of the case: "As early as in March, the municipal council took the relevant decision and sent the documents to the Ministry of the Interior, without receiving any answer to date. We are forced to conclude two-month contracts that are approved by the district government, and the contracts have to be concluded on quarterly basis. We have one and the same problem every year, "said the Mayor of Paros, Christos Vlahoyanis. Lifeguards in this municipality were appointed only yesterday. The situation described by the Mayor of Parga Athanasios Lyolyos is similar. According to him, the delay in appointments of lifeguards is due to the decentralised administration.

A 14-Year Problem

"The problem has existed for 14 years now. Why have certain municipalities decided to comply with the law, and others continually present one and the same excuse?" said the the Chairperson of the Association of Lifeguard Training Schools, Evangelos Tsambazis. "We have reached the conclusion that most times the arguments provided by the municipalities are used as an excuse for the Port Authorities to impose fines," he added.

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