Beach upgrades will keep you in the swim

Much-needed upgrades are making the beaches safer, officials say.

UAE - Umm Al Quwain - May 17- 2011:   People enjoy the public beach of Umm Al Quwain. ( Jaime Puebla - The National Newspaper )
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SHARJAH // Umm al Qaiwain beaches are getting a makeover featuring new warning signs for swimmers and plans to introduce food stands and public toilets, officials said this week.

The emirate's beaches, including the UAQ Corniche, have suffered from old or missing signboards telling swimmers about potentially dangerous areas.

In the next few weeks, the municipality will tear down dilapidated signposts and replace them with new, clearer versions.

Others will be added in areas that had none, said Dr Rashid al Misbah, the director general of UAQ municipality.

"Last week we had a meeting with police and civil defence to identify those areas that would need signposts on our beaches," he said. "We are now working on painting the new signs and very soon they will be visible on all our water shores."

The signs will warn swimmers of areas where the water currents are too strong as well as specifying the rules of conduct at the beaches, he said. They are being written in three languages: Arabic, English and Urdu.

"We appeal to swimmers to take notice of these posts and avoid swimming in prohibited places for their safety," he said.

Dr Misbah said there were plans to redevelop the emirate's beaches, equipping them with modern fast-food restaurants, public toilets and children's play areas, but he declined to give a specific timetable for those projects.

Despite a lack of clear warning signs, the emirate had not had any drowning in the past three years, said Lt Col Hassan bin Sallam, the director general of UAQ Civil Defence.

"We have good co-operation with the Coast Guard, police and municipality to monitor the safety of beaches, especially during the summer peak times," he said.

"We have sometimes had water accidents, and our rescue teams have hurried to help and avoid fatalities."

But the lack of warning signs has been a concern for residents such as Abdullah Ahmed, 30, who urged authorities to erect the new signs as quickly as possible.

"All the beaches in the UAE have these warning signs except here," he said.

"What will happen if the water is not safe for swimming or some areas at the beach become dangerous?"

But a big part of beach safety lies in being responsible, said Lt Col bin Sallam, who urged swimmers not to go into deep water without life jackets. Staying close to shore where other people can easily see and assist swimmers is the best way to save lives, he said.

"We have had most problems with children and youths," he said. "Some of them are not even good at swimming, but they like to go far away in the waters.

There may not be a lifeguard at every corner of the beach, but parents also have a responsibility to monitor their children and advise them on what is right and wrong."

Other residents said beaches still lacked basic amenities like public toilets.

"If you want to use the toilets you have to go to the nearest mosque and then come back," the Emirati Rashid Hamid, 35, said, referring to UAQ Corniche beach. "What kind of beach is this?"

Beachgoer Rashid Hamid echoed those concerns, saying the beaches needed practical items such as public toilets, emergency services and entertainment areas for children.