Warning for swimmers ahead of Australia Day

Caroline SchelleNCA NewsWire
Not Supplied
Camera IconNot Supplied Credit: News Corp Australia

Swimmers heading to the surf or rivers this Australia Day have been urged to take extra care, with fitness levels dropping since the pandemic kicked off.

Temperatures are set to soar to 35C in Melbourne on January 26, and Victoria has recorded 13 deaths since the start of summer.

Of those, 46 per cent were at beaches and another 46 per cent were at inland waterways, according to Lifesaving Victoria.

But while people are encouraged to enjoy the water, the organisation’s Bernadette Matthews urged people to be careful as fitness levels dropped during the state’s numerous lockdowns.

“Over the number of lockdowns that we’ve had people’s fitness levels have decreased and people haven’t had the experience around water and be able to practice typical skills in different aquatic recreational settings,” Dr Matthews told NCA NewsWire.

Frustrated lifesavers at a popular Melbourne swimming beach urged people to take care after they rescued 14 people within hours during one January weekend. Photo: Carrum Surf Life Saving Club Facebook via NCA NewsWire
Camera IconFrustrated lifesavers at a popular Melbourne swimming beach urged people to take care after they rescued 14 people within hours during one January weekend. Photo: Carrum Surf Life Saving Club Facebook via NCA NewsWire Credit: Supplied

She said it was important swimmers were aware of the conditions and their skills before they plunged into any waterway.

It’s not just adults who need to take care with swim teachers reporting kids swimming skills had “dropped off” since Covid and lockdowns.

Among the deaths this year were a seven-year-old boy who drowned on New Year’s Day at the Snowy River in Jarrahmond and a 35-year-old man at Princetown, in the state’s west.

And with many people expected to head to swimming holes and rivers to cool down on the public holiday, they have been warned there are still dangers.

Since July 1 last year, 48 per cent of the 29 deaths recorded in Victoria were at inland waterways.

“Our inland waterways can hold a number of hidden dangers, such as submerged objects, quite strong currents that you wouldn’t see just looking at the surface of the water and temperatures even at this time of year can be a lot cooler than you expect,” Dr Matthews said.

Dr Bernadette Matthews, Lifesaving Victoria Principal Research Associate urged people to take care during their time in the water.
Camera IconDr Bernadette Matthews, Lifesaving Victoria Principal Research Associate urged people to take care during their time in the water. Credit: Supplied

If you weren’t sure there were plenty of patrolled public pools that could offer respite from the heat for less experienced swimmers, she said.

For those planning on heading out to avoid the heat Dr Matthews said to check the conditions beforehand, swim between the flags at the beach and drink alcohol only after going for a swim.

The heatwave is set to continue in Victoria ahead of the holiday with the weather bureau forecasting a top of 35C in the city, with Tuesday night set to only reach a low of 22C.

“It will be another warm day, it’ll be warm, humid and partly cloudy,” senior forecaster Miriam Bradbury said.

There is a slight chance of a thunderstorm - between 30 to 40 per cent - in the afternoon.

Temperatures across the Mallee and northern districts are also expected to soar, with some parts to reach a sweltering top of 37C.

Originally published as Warning for swimmers ahead of Australia Day

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