Thirty eight people drowned over the course of this year’s swimming season, which began right before Pessah and officially ends Thursday.
By EHUD ZION WALDOKS
Thirty eight people drowned over the course of this year’s swimming season, which began right before Pessah and officially ends on Thursday.That represents a drop from last year when 43 people drowned, the Interior Ministry said.RELATED:Three family members drown in water reservoirMeanwhile, water watchdog NGO Zalul released its end-ofthe- swimming-season summary, which showed that while beaches closed more often in 2010 than in 2009, they stayed closed for fewer days.Zalul said that indicated the local authorities were becoming more efficient at cleaning up after sewage was dumped in the sea – but that the municipalities still practiced a policy of emergency maintenance rather than preventive maintenance on their sewage systems.Of the 38 people who drowned in 2010, more than 80 percent did so either off of a beach where swimming was prohibited, or when there were no lifeguards around. This year, the Interior Ministry launched a campaign to remind the public: “Never swim without a lifeguard present.”A ministry spokeswoman said that a public opinion survey the ministry commissioned revealed that 12% had changed their minds about swimming without a lifeguard present.Advertisement“Twelve percent is very high for such a campaign. Successful campaigns usually achieve about 5%,” she told The Jerusalem Post on Wednesday.Most of those who drowned were men; over 50% were Jewish- Israelis, and about 18% were Israeli Arabs. Nine percent were tourists.Most of the drownings occurred in the Mediterranean, although there were three in the Dead Sea, three in Eilat and one in Lake Kinneret.Those who drowned ranged in age from seven to 73. Five drowned because of medical issues, two bodies washed up on shore, and another six drowned for undetermined reasons, the ministry said.According to Zalul, there were 15 incidents of beach closures during the 2010 swimming season, up from 12 in 2009 and 13 in 2008. However, from October 2009 to October 2010, beach closures came to 81 days as opposed to 109 the previous year. Nevertheless, the number of times the beach was closed rose to 27 from 25 the year before.Zalul called on the Environmental Protection Ministry to fine local authorities at least double the cost of treating the amount of sewage that streamed into the sea to create a deterrent.Most of the closures were caused by malfunctions in nearby sewage systems, Zalul found.Haifa’s beaches were closed the most – four separate times, for a total of 16 days. At the start of the swimming season, Hashaket Beach was closed for 13 days because of a problem with the sewage system. During the rest of the season, the city’s beaches were closed three more times, for one day each time, according to the report.Bat Yam’s beaches were also closed four times, each time for a day. The other six occurrences happened on six separate beaches.Zalul also announced on Wednesday the winner of the CORONA Save the Beach contest.20,420 out of 42,655 voters chose a section of beach just north of the official Michmoret beach.
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