LIFESAVERS are on high alert as warmer weather lures thousands of swimmers to south-west Victorian beaches. As the fourth anniversary of the multiple Stingray Bay drownings passes, Warrnambool Surf Life Saving Club president Stephen Kerr urged beachgoers to heed safety warnings.He said it was always a risk that newcomers to the region would be unaware of the treacherous rocks and currents that swept five people to their deaths near Middle Island on January 2, 2005.Mr Kerr suggested that locals and regular visitors could advise newcomers who waded into the danger area.”Obey the signs and steer clear of the islands. The water changes very quickly,” he said. “If locals are there and know the area they could warn visitors.”Steel fencing erected on Middle Island for a penguin protection program should be a disincentive to cross the sea channel, Mr Kerr said.Trespassers face a fine of up to $500.”We ask that people respect penguins and observe the signs,” he said. Warrnambool’s main beach is patrolled daily by two professional lifeguards between 10am and 6pm while the weekend has extra patrols of 10 volunteers.Mr Kerr advised swimmers to heed warning flags indicating the safest beach sections away from rips and sandbars.”We realise swimmers chasing the surf will be outside these flags, but urge them to go with someone else,” he said.”We do roving patrols of these areas on foot and in our inflatable rescue boat.”The only drama so far this year was on Saturday morning when a boy fell off his board in the surf club Nippers program and was taken to hospital for examination.Surf club captain Rebel Noter said yesterday the boy was not injured. “It was a precautionary measure,” he said.
This article first appeared in Hangzhou Night Net.