LESS than two months into the year, and already 65 people have died from drowning throughout Malaysia – a number that warrants worry and concern say Fire and Rescue Department officials.
In Perak, State Fire and Rescue Department Director Datuk Yahaya Madis said the department recorded nine deaths by drowning as of Feb 24.
The deaths occurred in Kampar, Gopeng, Taiping, Seri Iskandar, Tanjung Malim, Bidor, and Tapah.
“In just less than two months, nine is considered a big number of drowning victims in the state.
“More attention must be paid to water safety to prevent further deaths,” he told MetroPerak.
On Feb 23, Fire and Rescue deputy Director of Operations Datuk Soiman Jahid said that of the 65 drowning cases in the country so far this year, 54 were due to victims being washed away by strong currents.
The latest tragedy came on Feb 19 when five anglers, including an Indonesian, drowned after they were carried off by strong currents while fishing at Sungai Gasi in Selangor.
Yahaya advises the public to be extra cautious when they are taking part in recreational activities in rivers, the sea, mining ponds and lakes.
“Please get prior information about the location before making any plans, especially about the water conditions, currents and weather.
“Ensure that you are not alone when you’re fishing, picnicking and doing other activities close to water,” he said.
Yahaya added that children should be watched closely so that they do not play in water without adult supervision.
“Obey instructions and warnings given by safety authorities or signboards – they are there for a reason,” he said.
Engineer P. Rajasegaran, 56, says he spends a fair amount of time with his two grandchildren, aged two and four, at water theme parks.
He takes them once every two months, he said, adding that he knows it is always important to keep a close eye on children.
“The parks do provide certain safety amenities such as floats, but we need to be constantly aware and keep our children under adult supervision at all times.
“You’ll never know what could happen if you stop paying attention for even one second,” he said.
Rajasegaran said children tend to get excited when they get to join water activities and forget their surroundings.
“Many are still young and don’t understand the risks because water seems fun to them. We have to follow them around and always remind them not to go too far,” he said.
Market trader Zuraidah Hanif, 38, said safety awareness is important for both parents and children.
“Once in a while, I bring my children to the Lubuk Timah hot spring and the Ulu Chepor waterfall for recreational activities.
“Those two are in natural locations and I think perhaps going to water theme parks like the Lost World of Tambun would be a safer option.
“My children are quite obedient. They are good at following instructions, which is why I think it is okay for me to bring them to various places for water activities,” she said.
The mother of two, aged 12 and 13, said weather and time are also factors she takes into consideration when planning for trips.
“I like going in the morning and around noon because the weather is usually hot and dry then.
“I stay away from making such trips during the rainy season because there could be sudden flash flooding due to heavy rain falling farther upstream,” she said.
Contractor Dominic Chong, 50, said he has a teenage son who likes taking part in outdoor activities like swimming and rafting.
“He likes joining his classmates for such activities and as worried I am all the time, he likes to think that he’s old enough and does not like having a parent following him.
“I always tell him to be careful, and to always check his phone for messages from his mum or me because if we don’t hear from him frequently, who knows what could happen,” he said.
Chong said he has read news reports of teenagers drowning at beaches and rivers often enough to keep him “worried for life”.
“I just hope that my son will be safe and pray that nothing untoward will happen,” he said.
A doctor who wants to be known only as Tesini, 35, said she seldom brings her four-year-old son for water activities because he is not old enough yet.
“He’s a scaredy cat, so it made it easier for us to look after him when we went to the Lost World of Tambun once or twice.
“He also has underlying asthma, so we try to stay indoors and play with him more rather than going out,” she said.
Apart from the risk of drowning, Tesini said another reason she does not take her son to rivers or waterfalls for recreation is due to worries about leptospirosis.
“In the event we do choose to go, we have to make sure that the place is child and baby-friendly.
“We wouldn’t go to places like Lata Bukit Hijau because you’ll never know for sure what currents and floods can do,” she said.