Seminar hopes to reduce bather deaths

More than 50 swimmers die every year after being caught in rip currents in Costa Rican waters. Now authorities are looking to prevent future drownings through a two-day workshop in Jacó that continues today.

A group of scientists, rescue experts, and technicians are speaking at the informational event designed to teach participants how to react to a rip current.  The series of lectures also aims to strengthen risk prevention and emergency responses at popular beach sites and proposes new ways to measure and call attention to dangerous rip currents.

Rip currents are commonly referred to by the misnomer riptides, which are a separate oceanic phenomena. The most frequent victims are kids and young adults, according to the Comision Nacional de Prevención de Riesgos y Atención de Emergencias, which is hosting the workshop. It adds that 80 percent of fatal accidents come during warm summer months.

Lidier Esquivel, who is in charge of the research and risk analysis team at the country’s risk prevention center, said that rip currents have a far greater impact on Costa Rican lives than earthquakes or floods in the last decade.

There are 130 workshop attendees, who were taken on a tour of the beaches to test monitoring equipment and see first hand how to recognize when a rip current forms. They also listened to a lecture from Stephen Leatherman from Florida International University, as well as local experts, who discussed the best ways for beach-goers to avoid disaster and the best ways for lifeguards and rescue professionals to provide aid in times of emergency.

Jacó is one of the few communities that have a lifeguard corps.

The Instituto Oceanográfico de la Universidad Nacional and the Instituto Costarricense de Turismo have partnered with the nation’s risk prevention agency to host this event.

Here is a quick list of water recommendations issued by the center: Get out of the water if it feels like it’s pulling on you, don’t panic and instead raise your hands and float until help arrives, and an alternative to floating is to swim parallel to the beach to where the waves are breaking so you’ll be carried to shore.

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