Jávea Council say that ‘enough is enough’ as bathers continue to flout red flags and in spite of warnings from lifeguards.
The town, with almost 30,000 residents, triples in size during the summer as holidaymakers flock to some of the Costa Blanca’s very best beaches. “Arenal beach is one of their favourites,” said one lifeguard, “but what they don’t’ appreciate are the very strong currents that swirl about under the surface, where invisible undertows can make conditions treacherous, so despite the red warning flags, people say that it still looks very calm and they go into the water.”
This year Spain has seen a 14.66% increase in drowning deaths, with 305 people dying in the water from January to July, according to unofficial figures from the country’s lifeguard association, the RFESS. To combat the problem, various municipalities around Spain have now decided to fine people who disregard safety warnings.
Last year Jávea introduced a €750 fine for bathers who disregard the warnings, San Bartolomé de Tirajana in Gran Canaria have now announced fines of up to €1500, whilst some beaches in Asturias carry a €3000 fine for those who ignore the warning flags. But despite the announcement of fines during the year to date only one person has been sanctioned in the whole of Spain, that being imposed on the beaches of Cudillero, Asturias.
Unfortunately, a lot of those disregarding the flags are holidaymakers from overseas, who it is difficult to follow up so any fines imposed would usually remain unpaid. “But the system should still be enforced by the authorities,” according to Luis Miguel Pascual, research director of the Spanish Association of Aquatic Rescue and Socorrismo (AETSAS). “Spaniards only respond to fines, as is the case with traffic accidents. If there were no cameras, people would speed more,”
According to Pascual, there were around 6,000 incidents in the water requiring rescue in Spain last year virtually all of which were as a result of recklessness.
On the Southern Costa Blanca councils such as Guardamar, Torrevieja and Orihuela have also threatened bathers with fines ranging from €300 to €1500. However they can only be issued by the police.
Indeed on San Javier’s El Pedrucho beach on Tuesday lifeguards called in officers from the newly formed beach patrol to deal with a bather who had refused to heed their warnings and leave the sea despite the flying of a red flag.
Fortunately the incident came to nothing although the bather concerned was made aware of the fining system that had been imposed for disregarding safety instructions, before being given a formal warning by the police.