The recent hot weather has increased the number of swimmers and paddle-boarders in Swiss rivers and lakes, and this in turn has brought more work for lifeguards.
A higher number of people in the water tends to bring more accidents, said Marc Audeoud of the Swiss Lifeguards Association. He said river-swimming is particularly dangerous, especially if people go out unprepared.
The association recommends river-swimming only for good swimmers. It also recommends that people always carry a means of flotation that they can cling onto if necessary.
The Swiss Lifeguards Association does not have national figures on the number of rescue operations, as these are collected by its local sections. On Lake Geneva, for example, section president Olivier Durgniat said that last year lifeguards carried out 968 rescue operations and saved 1,577 people. He does not expect the 2022 figures to be much higher.
Durgniat says the most notable change has been the higher number of boats breaking down on the lake. “We don’t have an official explanation, but possibly the higher cost of fuel has made some owners more reluctant to fill up,” he said.
Audeoud and Durgniat both warn against the dangers of night-time swimming, which can be tempting during a heatwave. Rescue operations are harder to carry out at night, and Durgniat warns of winds and possible hypothermia.
“Many people don’t know the winds on the lake,” he said. “On Lake Geneva, if the Bise [cold dry wind] gets up in the evening, it can easily carry you out.”
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