Expert aims to cut deaths in local waters

The number of deaths caused by drowning in the UAE is not clear, but recent figures suggest it is the second-biggest killer of children, topped only by road accidents.

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DUBAI // An authority on swimming and water safety from Australia is today launching a new series of training courses for swim instructors in Dubai as part of an effort to reduce deaths in local waters. The number of deaths caused by drowning in the UAE is not clear, but recent figures suggest it is the second-biggest killer of children, topped only by road accidents. Kirk Marks, the chairman of the Australian Council for the Teaching of Swimming and Water Safety (Austswim), hopes that the swimming and water-safety course will play a part in making the public aware of potential risks.

"In Australia, childhood drowning is the largest cause of death in infants," he said. "Getting statistics on the situation here is difficult but I would expect it to be quite dramatic," he said. Mr Marks estimated that as many as five children every day face serious difficulties in the water in the UAE, though not all would result in death. Austswim courses have been available in the UAE for some time, but six months ago it set up a base here as interest in water safety has increased across the region.

A new two-day course begins today and is followed by 20 hours of "face-to-face experience" aimed at instructing teachers. Mr Marks said life-saving rescue technique courses also are in demand and will be rolled out by Austswim in the weeks ahead. Mr Marks said he is writing a course on "dry-land techniques" for non-swimmers, referring to the use of poolside poles or other items to make rescues. "A lot of local and expatriate families are asking if we can teach their maids, who cannot swim, and make sure that appropriate equipment is kept poolside so they can reach out to their children in the water without having to first run into the house," he said.

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