Drownings in Portugal reach 18-year high

Majority of victims drowned in ‘unsupervised’ locations

In a year when even beaches hailed in the international press have zero lifeguard cover, the Portuguese lifeguard federation has announced the country hasn’t witnessed so many drownings since 2004.

The majority of the 157 victims recorded in 2022 were men, over the age of 40 and principally in unsupervised locations: beaches, river beaches and dams.

In fact, over 93% of deaths took place in unsupervised locations – which makes situations this year even more difficult to understand.

Along the wild Costa Vicentina coast of the Algarve for example, Praia da Amoreira has always ‘stood out’ as an iconic location; one written about by travel writers, going out of their way almost to encourage people to discover it. Last year the beach registered no drownings, and lifeguards on duty throughout the summer. This year however, there is no lifeguard cover (locals admit to being mystified, particularly as the beach has become increasingly popular since appearing in countless articles and magazines).

But according to the lifeguard federation it is in areas up north that most drownings occurred last year, (followed by Lisbon and then the Algarve) – not all of them beachgoers, some were fishermen). “Many of them were foreigners”, the federation’s president Alexandre Tadeia adds.

The majority of drownings happened at weekends, and in the afternoons.

Bottom line: “it’s not enough to know how to swim; people need to understand about prevention”. 

Indeed, the mere fact that “many foreigners” lost their lives last year, leads the federation to consider victims may have come from countries that prioritise prevention even less than Portugal has/ does.

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