GOLD Coasters are being urged to play it safe around the water and educate tourists following a dramatic increase in drownings at the beach.
102 people lost their lives on the Australian coast in the 2014/15 financial year, a jump from 83 in the previous 12 months.
Of those, 34 were swimmers and waders who entered the water outside the flags.
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The remaining 68 victims were rock fishermen or people who fell off boats or other watercraft.
While launching the latest Surf Life Saving Australia’s annual National Coastal Safety Report today, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull encouraged everyone to respect the water.
“Australian beaches are beguiling, they are enchanting, but they can be very dangerous,” Mr Turnbull said.
“The water is a part of Australian life, but we have to be water safe.”
Surf Life Saving Australia President Graham Ford agreed with Mr Turnbull and also expressed his frustration at the statistics.
“To put that in perspective, 34 people were enjoying swimming in the magnificent ocean, but if they had stayed between the red and yellow flags they would very likely still be alive today,” Mr Ford said.
“That number is so upsetting because we say it year after year, always swim between the red and yellow flags. If we can’t see you, we can’t save you.
“Our message has been strong and the statistics tell a very clear story. If you swim between the red and yellow flags where you are being watched by a surf lifesaver your chances of being rescued are very high if you get into trouble.
“To have such a rapid rise in the fatality rate is very concerning because our message has been consistent and ongoing.”
Significantly, the majority of drowning deaths are Australians with just 7% of all coastal drowning deaths being international tourists, down from 14% last year.