Rip current awareness lacking in Brunei

National 2 minutes, 3 seconds

BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN

THERE is a lack of awareness among the public about what to do when caught in a rip current while swimming at sea.

Rips are powerful currents of water moving away from shore that are strong enough to sweep even the strongest swimmer out to sea, according to a notice issued by Beach Bunch, a local non-governmental organisation. The speed of a rip current can reach 2.5 metres per second (eight feet per second).

Rips are blamed for numerous drownings and are considered one of the most dangerous natural hazards in the world.

The United States Lifesaving Association (USLA) estimates that 80 per cent of its rescues are related to rip currents.

Brunei is no stranger to deaths from drowning, with the most recent tragedy involving an 11-year-old boy who drowned off Penanjong Beach in October.

First Battalion Royal Gurkha Rifles’ Manthapa, 26, who was spotted yesterday at Muara Beach with his family, admitted he did not know what a rip current was.

The Brunei Times gave a brief description of a rip and asked Manthapa what he would do if caught in one.

Manthapa, who described himself as a strong swimmer, said he would attempt to swim as hard as he could against it.

Swimming against a rip current is highly discouraged because the swimmer would soon become exhausted. Beach safety organisations such as the USLA tell swimmers to swim perpendicularly to the direction of the rip current until they are free of its force. Only then should they swim to the shore.

Swimmers who are unable to escape the rip current can try flo ating, or treading water.

Those who get into trouble are also urged to attract attention.

Meanwhile, Paul Wong, a 19-year-old student, told The Brunei Times yesterday about his own experience of getting caught in a rip current while on holiday in Bali.

“It is extremely difficult to swim against a rip current. In fact, I had to be pulled out of the water by a fellow surfer while I was learning how to surf over there in Bali,” Paul said.

Rip currents usually occur in the monsoon season, which is why Paul urged fellow beachgoers to be careful at the moment – particularly surfers who flock to the beaches at this time of year to catch the big waves.

The Meteorological Department recently reported that Brunei would experience unsettled weather for the foreseeable future.

The department advised fishermen and beachgoers to be careful.

The Brunei Times