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Okinawa beach guards get new equipment for coming season

Date Posted: 2005-04-23

Summer is approaching fast and with it beaches full of sunbathers and swimmers. Unfortunately, the season brings with it a number of water related accidents.

This year the prefecture’s beach guards are prepared a little better in their effort to help swimmers who have run into trouble. An organization called the Okinawa Water Accident Rescue Association last weekend set up a demonstration at Kise Beach in Nago City showing how an Australian invention called “water stretcher” can be used to speedily bring shore people who are in danger of drowning.

The stretcher, about the side of a tatami mat, is attached to a water bike. The person in trouble is hoisted on the stretcher that can then be towed to the shore at considerable speed. The device is operated by a two-man team. One drives the water bike while the other attends to the victim on the stretcher and keeps him or her secure during transportation.

As time is of essence in drowning cases it is very important to get the victim to the shore and resuscitation as soon as possible. If resuscitation is started within 2 minutes from drowning, 90 percent of victims survive. However, it the heart stops for six minutes, only 10 percent survive.

Although Australians have used these devices for some time, Okinawa becomes the first in Japan to deploy them. The Okinawa Water Accident Rescue Association says that they plan to have 21 of the devices stationed in different parts of the prefecture.

According to officials at the 11th Maritime Safety Agency (Japanese Coast Guard) Okinawa had 85 water leisure related accidents last year with 29 of them being fatal.

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