Every year lives are lost on Portugal’s beaches due to the carelessness of bathers and the changeable nature of the Portuguese seas. The maritime authorities have long recognised that some beaches are more dangerous than others and are now studying ways of informing users about the safety of a particular beach. One of the ideas mooted by the University of the Algarve is the creation of a new ‘bilhete de identidade’, informing users of the safety history of the beach.
The new scheme is designed to prevent situations such as bathers becoming stranded or misjudging the tide, as happened to two young brothers off Praia do Pedrogão, in Leiria recently. Bombeiros and GNR officers combed the sands, between São Pedro de Muel and the end of Pombal concelho, looking for the youngsters. At the end of a fruitless search, the distraught father of the two boys, Carlos Silva, remained on the beach and refused to leave.
When the boys were finally spotted, their rescue was “very risky and lasted 40 minutes”, during which the lifeguards concerned “could very easily have died as well,” explained the leader of the rescue operation, Commander Almeida Lopes, from Leiria’s Bombeiros Voluntários.
“The first swimmer held one of the boys in his arms for around 15 minutes before the cord of his life-buoy broke,” he said. Lopes said that the lifeguard had thrown himself into the water in very stormy conditions on a beach that, even when the water appears calm, is notoriously dangerous.
The Algarve University study will inform bathers of the geography of the country’s beach together with a breakdown of accident rates on each one. Experts hope that if visitors are better informed about the beaches concerned before they venture on them, they will be less likely to have an accident.