Sat, Aug 10, 2013 - Page 3 News List

Weather bureau advises caution in wake of drownings

By Chen Yen-ting, Chen Yu-cheng and Jason Pan  /  Staff reporters, with staff writer

In the wake of a recent series of drownings, the public is advised to be very careful when going to the beach for a swim, Central Weather Bureau officials said.

“It may look like nice sunny weather and the sea looks quite safe, but large and high waves — known to the locals as the ‘southwest sea swells’ (西南湧) — may strike unexpectedly,” the officials said.

“These are dangerous ‘silent killers’ because when they arrive, it is too late for people to react,” they added.

On Saturday last week, tragedy struck Kenting’s South Bay (南灣) when high sea waves swept scores of swimmers out to sea. After frantic rescue efforts, the majority were saved, but three people lost their lives.

According to witnesses’ accounts, an unexpected sea surge of 4m-high waves hit the bay twice. At about 3:40pm, a large wave struck and carried off about a dozen swimmers; another wave struck at about at 5pm and took more than 100 swimmers, they said.

“It was very scary. The big wave carried people off like a giant vacuum cleaner. Even though I can swim, I couldn’t fight the force and was swept out to sea. Luckily, rescuers came and tossed me a lifejacket, so I was able to stay afloat and was rescued later,” a swimmer recalled.

Quick action by lifeguards, along with crews and operators of the area’s leisure activities, helped save most of the more than 100 swimmers carried off by the massive wave.

The bodies of the three who drowned were later recovered.

Kenting National Park officials said that after weather forecasts warning of gale-force winds and high waves, they had erected red flags on South Beach as a warning to people not to go into the water because of the dangerous sea conditions.

Most people ignored the warning, they said.

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