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River recreation The dark side of the urban swimming trend

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Swimming in city rivers is popular in Switzerland. However the pastime can be dangerous and the number of accidents increases every year. (SRF/swissinfo.ch)

Swimming in rivers has become increasingly popular in Switzerland. But the trend means more swimmers are being saved from drowning. Over the last 20 years, rescue operations on the Rhine in Basel have steadily increased.

Now a patrol cruises the Rhine for ten hours every day in summer. Fire brigades, border control and the police share the duty. The goal is not only to be there as quickly as possible in the event of an emergency, but also to prevent accidents in the first place. City rivers bring their own special dangers.

In Bern river swimming attracts thousands of people on a hot day. There are no patrols along the city’s Aare river. Warning posters are displayed instead. According to the Swiss lifesaving society most of the victims are young men.

Thanks to increasingly better water quality, more and more people have been taking to Swiss rivers in recent years. But the more people there are, the more challenging river safety becomes for everyone involved.