Greece has the highest number of drownings in Europe and ranks second in the world relative to its population, with roughly 400 deaths by drowning per year, experts told ANA-MPA reporters carrying out a special report. They particularly emphasised the high risk to young children, warning parents that child drownings tended to be "silent" as children did not understand what was happening to them.
"It only takes a few seconds for a child's life to be lost in the water," noted the head of the Greek Life Guard Academy Nikos Giovanidis, noting that by the time children realised that they were drowning, it was often too late.
He underlined that in most cases, simple but fundamental precautions had not been taken, such as keeping children under constant supervision and ensuring that they had not eaten before going swimming.
Giovanidis also highlighted the risks to older children, especially boys aged between 10 and 15 years old, who were prone to act impulsively and recklessly in the sea or around pools, leading to accidents that resulted in drownings.
Surveys carried out by the Life Guard Academy have also shown that many Greek children and adults do not know how to swim.
Doctor Antonia Moutafi of the Centre for Research and Prevention of Accidents to Children and Young People (KEPPA) said that 386 drownings were reported in Greece in 2009, of which 259 concerned boys and 127 girls.
She said the ages most at risk from drowning were very young children between the ages of one and five years old and senior citizens aged 65 and over, who tended to drown as a result of health problems such as heart attacks.
"Whereas in most European Union countries there was a reduction in drownings, in Greece there has been a slight increase since 2006 from 1.71 per 100,000 population to 2.52 per 100,000 population. The average in the EU is 1.21 per 100,000 population," she said.
Even though drowning was the second cause of death after road accidents every summer, there was a lack of people willing or able to fill life guard positions, she added, despite the fact that it was a well-paid seasonal job.