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SLSA Fights Vietnam ‘Epidemic’

By Duncan Horscroft on June 23, 2011 in News

There is an epidemic sweeping along the Vietnam coast and it can’t be cured by any medicine.

It’s called drowning.

The World Health Organisation recently said that more than one million people die from drowning a year in Asia and claimed it to be a major health issue.

In Vietnam in 2008, 3523 children and adolescents lost their lives along the 3260km stretch of coastline and in the 2360 rivers that run through the country.

In an effort to educate the locals on how to survive in the surf and the many waterways and beaches in this tourist hot-spot, Surf Life Saving Australia recently embarked on a mission to China Beach – about 10kms from Vietnam’s fourth largest city Da Nang – to meet with government officials in an attempt to address the water safety situation.

China Beach has exploded in the past couple of years with major international hotels popping up along a pristine strip of South China Sea coastline that extends south to the outskirts of Hoi An in the south.

With this boom in tourism, infrastructure is urgently needed to cater for the safety of the masses that are flocking to these coastal resorts.

Further down the coast, Nha Trang is another case in question as this town prides itself on the wide variety of water sports on offer to the tourists, but aside from experienced ex-patriot dive instructors there are no water safety practices in operation for the locals.

“We were amazed at the number of locals who die in the water every year,” Bronte’s recently-elected President of Surf Life Saving Australia, Graham Ford, said.

“A great majority of Vietnamese depend on the waterways for a living, but they are also very naïve about the potential dangers.

“When they get into trouble the result is usually tragic due to their lack of survival skills and what to do in an emergency situation.

“We have a few plans on the drawing board and we are already supplying the country with rescue equipment such as rescue tubes and rescue boards and we also have a training program in place for the locals.”

Surf Life Saving Australia has also received good support from expatriates such as former Australian surf lifesaver Duncan MacLean, who is the general manager of the Furama Resort Da Nang, and Quentin Derrick, the Director of (English) Studies at Da Nang University.

Ford said the red and yellow flags were now flying at China Beach, where the Da Nang Surf Club will be established.

“Obviously with the large amount of resorts being built in the area there is a need for trained lifeguards on the beaches, but our major concern is the number of young Vietnamese people coming to grief in the waterways away from the ocean.

“The (Da Nang) Peoples Committee is keen to work with us in establishing the Da Nang Surf Club and hopefully this will have a flow-on effect in teaching the locals in villages and towns outside the major tourist hubs more about water safety and survival in general water areas, not just the surf.”

“There are already Swim Safe and Alliance To Save Children programmes in operation and Kat Waterhouse from the Broulee Surf Club has recently arrived in Da Nang on a 12 month secondment with SLSA.”