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  Straits Times Forum 19 Apr 07
Going to the beach? To play safe, here's what you can do
Choe Philip

Straits Times Forum 14 Apr 07
Be mindful of dangers when swimming in sea
Kong Yit San Director of Parks National Parks Board

Straits Times Forum 10 Apr 07
Beware sea current when tide is low or high

Letter from Patrick Low Soh Chye

IT SADDENED me to read of the drownings of two schoolboys off Pasir Ris Beach on Thursday.

According to the report, 'Missing teen boys: Second body found' (The Sunday Times, April 8), four of them were able to wade out to a fish farm located about 100m from the shore. When they reached the farm the water level was only about chest high.

It was not clear how long they remained on the farm, but the two who decided to swim back got into trouble and drowned while the other two who remained on the farm managed to get back to shore safely.

On the evening in question, the tide was at its lowest at 0.9m at 7.05pm. The two boys were swept away about 6.10pm, right before the eyes of their anguished classmates.

In my experience, the current is swiftest around the time of low and high tides. Moreover, when it is around full-moon time, the tide can be especially low, which explains why the boys were able to wade out to the fish farm.

The channel between Pulau Ubin and the mainland is especially treacherous when a huge body of water is engorged in the narrow strait at low and high tides. Some years ago, I was swept away by the strong tidal current and, if not for a boatman who fished me out of the water, I would not be able to tell this tale.

The increasing spate of drownings off Pasir Ris Beach in recent years makes it imperative for the National Parks Board to put up clear signs to warn unwary swimmers not to venture too far offshore, especially around low- and high-tide times.

Better still, publish the times on the warning boards so that inexperienced swimmers would not be lulled into a false sense of security by the seemingly gentle waters.

There are no lifeguards at any of our public beaches but I remember that years ago there were lifeguards on duty at popular beaches, such as at Changi Beach Park. Whatever happened to them?

It takes only a few minutes to drown. By the time the alarm is raised and the Police Coast Guard and Civil Defence rescuers arrive, it is too late to do anything except look for the bodies.

Straits Times 14 Apr 07
Be mindful of dangers when swimming in sea
Kong Yit San Director of Parks National Parks Board

I REFER to the letter, 'Beware sea current when tide is low or high' (ST, April 10), by Mr Patrick Low Soh Chye.

The recent drowning of two schoolboys off Pasir Ris Beach was a very unfortunate accident.

As highlighted by Mr Low, there are many unknown dangers in the sea. Even confident
swimmers should not underestimate the unpredictability of open waters.

Even though the National Parks Board does not regulate swimming in the open seas, we have put up advisory signs along beach parks to alert the public to exercise caution at potentially dangerous swimming spots.

There are 10 'No Swimming' signs along the beach of Pasir Ris Park.

The Singapore Life Guard Corps has a presence at Changi Beach Park during the weekends. We are on the lookout for more of such collaborations with other voluntary groups.

Straits Times Forum 19 Apr 07
Going to the beach? To play safe, here's what you can do
Choe Philip

YOUR forum letter 'Beware sea current when tide is low or high' (ST, April 10), by Mr Patrick Low Soh Chye offered good advice to the many hundreds who go to the beaches every weekend or for a holiday break, having experienced the same predicament when he was younger.

Everyone should take heed of his wisdom.

But the sad truth is how many of us care to look up the weather page before venturing out to sea? I live near the sea and I go there quite often. I wear swimming trunks instead of cotton briefs every day, just in case. But over the years nothing happened.

Only once did I see something - an old man lying prone on the beach already dead, with a lot of policemen and people gathered there. I had also spent time doing duty at the East Coast beach where there used to be a police and lifeguard post and wooden lookout towers along the beach. But nothing happened while I was posted there.

I have retired a long time ago but I still continue to wear my swimming trunks and still nothing happened that I could be of any assistance. So, you can see, meeting a lifesaver when you are in trouble in some remote beach is like meeting an angel in swimming trunks.

Here is what you can do. Don't wait for the authorities or someone for help.

Help yourself. It's so simple. Whether you are going to join in the fun or not, have in your car always a set of life vests and whistles.

Follow this procedure everytime you go to the beach. As soon as you step out of the car, ask everyone to gather around and tell them to look out for each other. Stay close, never alone.

Ask each one taking to the sea to put on the life vest. Most vests come with a whistle, or buy one. Show them some hand signals to follow in case of emergency.

Then take out your whistle and blow to show how loud or shrill it should be, continuous or in short blasts. A whistle is so simple to have and use. In the open sea shouting and yelling will not help.

Or better still if you must, why not bring your family and kids to the swimming complex. There you have mee siam, mee goreng and fishballs and an array of deck chairs and well-trained lifeguards too.

I still go for swims and exercise every day and I like the beaches, not hoping to be a hero some day but to enjoy what people from some countries yearn to have. How lucky we are. A bit of common sense can make your holidays so enjoyable.

It is so sad and tragic. It is also so simple to be safe. A whistle costs less than a plastic toy.

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