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Friday, October 26, 2007

Perilous Algarve

According to this guide, the Algarve is the most southern region of Portugal and it's one of Europe's favourite holiday destinations well known for glorious year round sunshine and excellent sandy beaches. But this news in Telegraph.co.uk on Wednesday reporting that "Three Britons and a German have drowned while trying to save three children who got into difficulties while swimming off the coast of the Algarve in Portugal" certainly put a large shadow over the vacation place. The news even being reported on radio in U.S.
An article by David Brown in today's Timesonline.co.uk provided some details on what had happened as told by a survivor, Mr. Dean Plumb, who was there.

“We spent a lot of time in the water, body-boarding and swimming. It was perfect, the waves were great fun and we did a rota with the children, with some of us with them as they swam or played football and one of us always looking after our stuff on the beach,” recalled Mr Plumb, of South Marston near Swindon.

“I was looking after everything when some of the children went back in the water. It was probably the last swim of the day before we would have gone home.”

As the reporter noted that about that time the tide had begun to change and the outgoing water had created a whirlpool close to a rock in the middle of the cove. Although the water was only chest height, the children began to be dragged out to sea. Mr. Plumb said:
“There was a sudden commotion down on the beach. One of the children was crying and I realised something had gone very wrong. I ran down and saw my eldest son Sam was in the water.

“I stripped off and swam towards him. I shouted, ‘I will meet you half way’. He shouted, ‘Dad the waves are taking us farther out’. We were hit by a big, aggressive wave and I knew exactly at that point that we were in a lot of trouble.

“I reached Sam and somehow pulled him forward, but it seemed like every five seconds we were hit by another large wave. They were so strong that you couldn’t get air, it was disorientating.”

There were two surfers nearby who managed to grabbed his son while Plumb tried to return to the beach and his ordeal continued:

“But from that point on I was just in a constant fight with the rip-tide. You can see it coming towards you like an Exocet, but you can’t do anything about it. The waves just hit you and hit you. When they clear, you are somewhere totally different because they’ve tossed you around.

“There was a time when I managed to climb on to the big central rock and then I thought I would be OK. But I was too exhausted, I didn’t have the strength, and another wave knocked me off and smashed me over the rocks. I went from elation to absolute despair. I tried to claw back on to it but I couldn’t resist the strength of the waves and they took me farther out.”

“I don’t know how long I was out there but it felt like at least half an hour, and the waves kept breaking over me. One time I surfaced near a surfer, but I was out of reach. I finally got to him and he shouted, ‘Grab the board, grab the board’, but then this almighty wave hit us and sent us both spiralling.

“I was losing all strength. I could feel I was coming up for air and breathing out water I had breathed in. It felt like it was in my lungs. My legs and arms were so tired. I tried to swim on my back because I didn’t have the strength to keep doing front crawl, and that did seem to get me closer to the beach.

“The next thing I remember is people dragging me forward. Without them I didn’t have the orientation or the energy to even drag myself to shore. From that point I just closed down. I remember people were comforting me. I could see my youngest son Harry and I could hear Sue. I didn’t know then that Sam was safe, but I saw him later. The next thing I remember was paramedics giving me an oxygen mask.”

Mr. Plumb was still one of the lucky ones. His friends Mr. and Mrs. Fry and a German tourist were swept to their deaths, left the two Fry children 9 and 11 lost both of their prents. That was a sad, sad story.

So its not only freaque waves that might ruin a perfect vacation, tidal currents and rip currents are also extremely dangerous on the beach. Again I can't help wondering -- what if they could all have their life vest on . . .?

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