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Water sport drownings Increasing in Okinawa

Date Posted: 2005-09-09

Snorkeling is supposed to be a safe, enjoyable alternative to the more risky realm of scuba diving.

This year itís proving to be costly to citizens, as already nine snorkeling accidents have claimed two lives. Officials say the highly popular sport with tourists attracts many beginners, and many of them simply donít follow the rules.

An accident on Ishigaki Island in August involved a mother and her nine-year-old son. As the snorkeling son got into trouble and appeared to be drowning, the mom had a panic attack. She didnít know how to rescue her son, but raced into the water anyway. She drowned, but the son was rescued by a nearby man.

Hotels have been promoting snorkel rental businesses for more than three years, and provide instructors who teach, train and explain procedures to would-be snorkelers. They also provide lifeguards at the beach as well, keeping a watchful eye for trouble. In the mother-son case, the two had ventured off alone, away from the hotel property.

Experts say many swimmers think snorkeling is easier than scuba diving. It looks like fun, and all that is needed are fins, a mask and a snorkel. The specialists say people forget how easy it is to panic when in trouble, and forget how difficult it is to stand in water while wearing fins. Then thereís the problem of breathing in water through the snorkel.

They warn that amateur snorkelers often have no lung capacity for remaining underwater for long, but donít realize it. Experts also warn than newcomers to the sport should wear life jackets, and take lessons and lectures before setting foot into the water.

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