Bathers ignore red flags at beaches, rescue brigade stays busy

Despite red flags being raised at beaches along the coast of the Netherlands, bathers are still entering the sea. The rescue brigade took action 2435 times last week, in the second busiest week ever, a rescue brigade spokesperson said. Of these rescues, 188 were due to life-threatening situations.

Emergency services had to take action dozens of times over the past weekend. Sunday was a record-breaking day for rescues, with 562 reports. The same day, four bathers drowned off beaches in the North Sea.

Recent offshore winds and strong currents have created a dangerous environment for swimmers, causing the rescue brigade to hoist the red flag. This means swimming is banned in the sea. 

Warnings ignored

Apparently these warnings are being ignored. Director of Rescue Brigade Netherlands, Koen Breedfield says, “We have raised the red flag and warned people with all our might. We really spend a lot of time on that, but I see that that is not enough. We need to do more work on that. The message that you should look at the flags and the coastguard before you step into the sea has not sufficiently penetrated to civilians,” reports NU.

The flags indicating safety conditions in the water are usually hung at the lifeguard post or beach entrance. The rescue brigade director wants to add more, with flags posted every 500 or 1000 meters from the beach. 

READ MORE | Swimming hazards at beaches, lakes, and canals in the Netherlands

Beach crowding brings an added challenge

Large numbers of beachgoers add an extra challenge to rescue brigade’s work, making it difficult to manoeuvre through the crowds. With so many people, the rescue brigade cannot guarantee everyone’s safety.

Breedfield is optimistic that people will get the picture after last weekend’s chaos. “I hope that after all the reports people have a better understanding of the dangers of the sea.” His message to beachgoers: “be aware we only have two hands.”

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Featured Image: Rudolphous/Wikimedia Commons

Brin Andrews
Brin is an avid ice cream eater from the US, calling Amsterdam home since early 2019. As a lover of mountains, life below sea level has been a bit of an adjustment, but she manages to stay afloat with long runs, wine, and frequent travel. Incidentally, these are a few of her favourite topics to write about.


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