The Portuguese Federation of Lifeguards (FEPONS) has raised an alarm about the heightened risk of drowning due to rising temperatures and the termination of lifeguard services at most beaches. This warning comes in the wake of a study presented at an international congress in Spain in 2021, which established a direct correlation between increasing temperatures and drowning deaths in Portugal.
FEPONS has strongly advised swimmers to only visit beaches where lifeguard assistance is still available. This advisory comes at a time when the mainland of Portugal is experiencing temperatures above 30 degrees Celsius, with the potential to reach up to 37 degrees. These figures represent a 5 to 8 degrees increase above the average temperature for September, according to the Portuguese Institute of Sea and Atmosphere (IPMA).
The current hot weather situation is predicted to persist until the start of the week, until day 03. Angela Lourenço, a meteorologist at IPMA, has warned that if the anticyclonic ridge's influence persists and the hot weather episode extends for more days, particularly in the South region, a heatwave may occur.
Drowning Statistics in Portugal
On August 11, FEPONS revealed that 60 people drowned in the first six months of the year. This figure, although lower than the same period's figure of 68 deaths, was higher than the average of the last six years, which stands at 56 deaths. According to data from the Drowning Observatory, none of these deaths occurred on guarded beaches. These figures emphasize the role of lifeguard services in preventing drowning incidents.
Need for Increased Safety Measures
Given the increasing temperatures and the consequent higher risk of drowning, there is an urgent need for increased safety measures at beaches. These include the extension of lifeguard services beyond the regular season, the installation of physical barriers at dangerous spots, and the enforcement of strict swimming rules. These measures, coupled with public awareness about the dangers of swimming at unguarded beaches, can go a long way in reducing drowning incidents and saving lives.