Drowning deaths out of control

"No Swimming" sign
© RIA Novosti. Ruslan Krivobok

Drowning deaths are out of control

by Vlad imir Kozl ov at 15/07/2010 20:23
This summer, a record number of people have already drowned in Moscow’s rivers and ponds, with swimming while drunk or in unsuitable places cited as the top causes.

The number of people who have drowned in Moscow since June 1 stood at 90 as of Thursday morning, the Business FM radio station reported, adding that five people drowned on Wednesday. “All of them were men,” a source in medical circles told Interfax, adding that mid-summer of last year, the number of victims had been a comparatively low 36.

“The main reason for the high death rate is consumption of alcohol in the anomalous heat,” Interfax’s source said. “In such weather, only people who want to die drink [alcohol] and then go swimming.”

On Wednesday evening, most people swimming in the rowdier section of Bolshoy Sadovy pond in northern Moscow, one of the few places within city limits where swimming is officially permitted, were consuming beer between swims, and some were even drinking vodka.

An obviously drunk swimmer, who wouldn’t give his name, said he knew that combining swimming with alcohol consumption was dangerous but didn’t care, using obscenities in an apparent attempt to bolster his point.

A lifeguard was meanwhile sailing around the pond in a boat, apparently paying little attention to the fact that some swimmers were noticeably inebriated.

This week, Komsomolskaya Pravda reporters tested the lifeguards at Moscow’s beaches by pretending that they were drowning, and came to the conclusion that a swimmer drowning in an area monitored by lifeguards is likely to be saved.

However, many residents choose to swim in the nearest pond or water reservoir, places that are often unsuitable for swimming and not monitored by lifeguards. There, their chances of being saved if something should go wrong are much slimmer.

“People go to the closest pond, which isn’t suitable based on hygiene standards and isn’t adapted for swimming at all, so you could cut yourself on construction site debris,” Vladimir Plyasunov, head of the Moscow city lifeguard service, told Komsomolskaya Pravda. “At such places, people drown more than anywhere else. In 90 per cent of cases, they are drunk men. In recent years, there has also been a new trend: many of those who drown come from southern republics [of the former Soviet Union]. They come to the water to have a bath. They don’t know how to swim, but they want to very much.”

This year’s abnormally hot summer has demonstrated that there is a shortage of places suitable for swimming in Moscow, an issue that city authorities prefer not to comment on. They blame the deaths solely on the swimmers themselves.

Incidentally, under the current administrative code, individuals swimming in an unapproved location could be fined up to 2,500 roubles. 

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