**Drowning Deaths Surge: Dangerous Selfies and Lack of Skills Blamed**

Sydney, Australia – Water safety experts in Australia have raised concerns over the increase in drowning incidents during the summer months. Records indicate a 10% rise in the number of drownings compared to the previous summer, with 99 individuals losing their lives in various water bodies across the country between December 1 and February 29. Many of these tragic deaths occurred in unpatrolled areas, highlighting the importance of beach safety education for the public.

A large proportion of the drownings took place in remote locations, where access to help was limited. The Surf Life Saving Australia’s Summer Coastal Drowning Report revealed that more than a quarter of these incidents happened in the week between Christmas and New Year. However, the efforts of lifeguards and volunteer surf lifesavers resulted in over 5,700 coastal rescues and 25,000 first aid treatments during the summer period.

One concerning trend highlighted by the report is the decrease in swimming skills among adults, with individuals over the age of 55 accounting for more than a quarter of the drowning cases. Experts attribute this decline in swimming abilities to the closure of swimming pools and the cessation of swimming lessons during COVID lockdowns. This shift underscores the importance of continuous water safety education for all age groups.

A significant number of drownings occurred in New South Wales, Victoria, and Queensland, with Queensland experiencing a 57% increase in drownings from the previous summer. According to Stacey Pidgeon, the national research manager at Royal Life Saving Australia, the closure of pools and cessation of swimming lessons during lockdowns could have contributed to this rise in drowning incidents.

In an effort to reduce drowning rates, Surf Life Saving Australia and Royal Life Saving Australia are working towards halving the number of drowning deaths by 2030 as part of the Australian Water Safety Strategy. These organizations emphasize the need for increased public awareness, proper beach safety practices, and adherence to designated swimming areas between red and yellow flags.

The issue of drownings in isolated locations, particularly due to lack of rip awareness, remains a significant concern. Rips were identified as a primary cause of fatalities at coastal locations, highlighting the need for improved water safety education. Authorities urge beachgoers to be vigilant, check weather conditions before swimming, and adhere to safety protocols to prevent further tragedies.

As the summer comes to a close, the emphasis on beach safety and drowning prevention remains paramount. With the continuous efforts of water safety organizations, lifeguards, and the public, it is essential to prioritize education, awareness, and responsible swimming practices to ensure the safety of all individuals enjoying Australia’s pristine beaches and waterways.