The Department of Economic Development, Environmental Affairs and Tourism (DEDEAT) has handed over R400 000 worth of life guard equipment to the Port St Johns Municipality that includes nine rescue craft, nine rescue boards and a host of other equipment and uniforms for life guards.
The presentation of the equipment took place against the background of nine shark attacks, seven of which were fatal, off Second Beach over the past decade that has earned the beach the tag of being the “deadliest in the world”.
The most recent attack took place off Second Beach in March when a 72-year-old Austrian tourist was killed while swimming in shallow water in the afternoon when all the attacks have taken place.
More deaths, however, result from drowning, with eight fatalities last year alone.
Second Beach is extremely popular with tourists and locals right throughout the year because of the warm climate.
There are eight beaches in the town in addition to the area used to cross the Mzimvubu River that the municipality states “requires full time support as the communities use the boat to access town on a daily basis”.
Prior to the intervention by DEDEAT the situation at Port St Johns was that:
· Five beaches had no signage at all and what signage did exist was primarily in English and should also be in Xhosa
· There was a lack of equipment and kit for life guards, and
· A lack of well-equipped and well-trained lifesavers and equipment at all beaches.
The provision of equipment by DEDEAT will ensure that the life guards have the use of state-of-the-art equipment and so create a safer environment within which both tourists and locals can swim.
There appears to be no certainty as to which species of shark is responsible for the attacks.
While the municipality fingers Zambezi and Tiger sharks but says the possibility of Great Whites being involved “cannot be ruled out,” a preliminary investigation in 2009 suggested that bull sharks were responsible and that the Mzimvubu River was a breeding ground for these sharks.