Drowning spurs calls for better control of beach

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 18 August, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 18 August, 2013, 3:56am

The drowning of a 20-year-old at a beach at Hoi Ha Wan Marine Park in Sai Kung last Sunday has raised safety issues for swimmers in the area, and a local residents' group is demanding that the government take action so a similar tragedy does not occur.

Police said the swimmer got into difficulties and was rescued by friends. He was taken unconscious to Prince of Wales Hospital and later certified dead. Police did not release the dead swimmer's full name.

A spokeswoman for a local residents' group said the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department should be doing more. Despite the fact that hundreds of people go to Hoi Ha to snorkel and scuba dive, the beaches are not gazetted - meaning they are not maintained or managed by the government, and lack proper safety facilities.

"The beaches have not been gazetted because the infrastructure associated with that might interfere with the conservation aims of the marine park," said Nicola Newbery, chairwoman of the Friends of Hoi Ha. "For example, a shark net would not be appropriate in a marine park.

"The department wardens who are at Hoi Ha during the day do not have a safety function. It is tragic that a young man should have died from drowning just metres from the shore because there were no facilities to save his life. There is no lifebuoy, no lifeguard, no emergency phone [there is no mobile reception at Hoi Ha] and no-one trained to deal with such emergencies."

A government spokeswoman said that five warning signs had been erected on the beach to draw visitors' attention to the fact that the seabed may be uneven, and drops away suddenly.

The department said that since the drowning, manpower had been strengthened to conduct patrols during weekends and holidays. Leaflets on park rules would also be distributed.

"Staff will also give verbal advice to visitors about water safety and more warning signs will be installed on the beach," the spokeswoman said.