German lifeguards have warned of a wave of drownings this summer as record numbers of people take to the country’s lakes and rivers because of the coronavirus crisis.
The German Lifeguards Association (DLRG) said it was concerned at the numbers seeking to escape the heat in unsupervised lake and river bathing spots.
“This summer, more people are attracted to local waters, since many are not going travelling abroad,” Achim Wiese, spokesman for the DLRG, said.
Germans nervous of travelling to the Mediterranean have flocked to the country’s many lakes and rivers and the beaches of the northern coast.
The country is renowned for its pristine lakes, where water is tested regularly by local authorities to ensure it is safe for swimming.
But the past month has seen a spate of drownings at popular bathing spots, including an 11-year-old girl, a 16-year-old boy and a 56-year-old man in the past week alone.
The DLRG says the closure of many outdoor pools because of the coronavirus is driving inexperienced swimmers to natural bathing spots, many of which have no lifeguards on duty.
“Around 80 per cent of all annual drowning cases in Germany take place where there is no life guard,” Mr Wiese said. “This year it could be more because of Corona.”
The German Swimming Instructors’ Association (DSLV) has predicted a 20 per cent rise in drownings this year because of the crisis.
“Many beaches are understaffed because lifeguards have to comply with social distancing rules and are only allowed to work in small teams. And many swimmers are untrained and overestimate their strength,” Alexander Gallitz of the DSLV told Bild newspaper.
“When people barbecue by the lakeshore and alcohol flows, they end up in tests of courage, which in the worst case can be fatal.”
Experts warn that the seemingly placid waters of German lakes can be deceptive and hide sudden temperature drops that can send swimmers into shock.
In recent years many former quarries have been transformed into lakes and these have steep changes in depth that can cause dramatic drops in temperature.
And Mr Gallitz warned that the sea off Germany’s northern coast can be dangerous for inexperienced swimmers.
“People who have previously only cooled off in the hotel pool they jump into the sea without knowing if they have the strength to brave the waves,” he said.