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Australia Lifeguards Issue Warning

April 2, 2000

SYDNEY, Australia (AP) _ A wave of drownings among tourists visiting the Sydney Olympics is possible unless more money goes into education and patrols, a spokesman for lifeguards who patrol Australia’s beaches said Sunday.

Surf Life Saving Australia medical officer Dr. Peter Fenner said most visitors who drown in Australia’s sometimes treacherous seas do so within four days of arriving in the country.

According to figures published last year in the Australian Medical Journal, 88 tourists from 12 countries drowned in Australia between 1992 and 1997, more than 60 percent of them while swimming at surf beaches.

Fenner said SLSA had tried unsuccessfully to encourage airlines to show multilingual videos warning incoming visitors of the dangers of the surf.

``The reason they don’t do it is because they’re worried about frightening their travelers _ and if one airline starts doing it they might feel they’re disadvantaged to everyone else,″ he said.

Fenner said hotels situated along beaches should employ lifeguards, and local councils should pay for more beach patrols.

In a letter to the Medical Journal of Australia released Sunday, Fenner called for safety audits of beaches and the posting of multilingual signs in advance of the 2000 Games.

``Substantial funding is essential for developing further initiatives to prevent ocean drownings in the lead-up to the Olympic Games, when thousands of tourists with little idea of the dangers of the surf will come to Australia,″ he wrote.

Among the busiest beaches is Sydney’s Bondi, which will host the Olympic beach volleyball tournament during the games, which start Sept. 15.

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