KUALA LUMPUR: IT is only the second month of the year, yet the number of deaths due to drowning based on the Fire and Rescue Department’s (FRD) statistics, until Feb 21, has reached 65.

FRD deputy director-general (operations) Datuk Soiman Jahid said the hike in drowning cases was alarming, adding that most of them took place at beaches, rivers, waterfalls, lakes/mines or sewers.

“A total of 652 deaths were recorded, with 260 people in 2016, followed by 327 people last year.

“This year, we have recorded 65 deaths and it is only February,” he said recently.

He said enforcement agencies could have different figures because FRD’s Underwater Rescue Team was despatched only if a victim or body could not be found.

Soiman said 54 of this year’s victims were drowned after being swept away by strong currents.

In the latest tragedy on Monday, five anglers drowned in Selangor.

An Indonesian known as Hashir, 30; Jamaluddin Rapawi, 14; Silawati Zailan, 31; Jaleha Hashim, 48; and Rapawi Jum’ada, 37, drowned after they were swept away by strong currents.

Datuk Soiman Jahid

He said as visiting recreational sites had become a norm for Malaysians, especially during school holidays, public holidays and weekends, drowning was prone to happen should one neglect safety.

“Many people overlook this aspect at water recreational parks despite warning signs being put up for their safety.

“(And) many who met unfortunate accidents were those who were unfamiliar with the surroundings, such as tourists.”

However, Soiman said, drowning could be prevented if one paid serious attention to safety measures before entering water.

“It is all about self-awareness. Be extra cautious when carrying out water-related activities.”

He said steps the public could take included checking the weather forecast before a trip.

“It is best to check the weather forecast, not only for the day when one is going to visit the recreational site, but also the previous day.

“If it rained the previous day, or will rain on the day, they should cancel the plan as the water level may rise and the current may be stronger than usual.

“The public should prepare life jackets and safety buoy for children, and bring some rope.

“It is better to be safe than sorry, because we never know what will happen.

“Always check if the recreational area is a high-risk site.

“Some sites have signs  that inform visitors about dangerous spots. Be alert to those.

“Last, the public should ask themselves if they are healthy or fit, because if they are unwell, it will be hard to stay afloat in strong currents.”

He said one should also look out for early signs of strong water currents.

“This include water turning murky and sudden fast-moving water flow with the presence of rubbish and tree branches.

“If you see these signs, leave the place. Never underestimate the power of nature.”

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