Swimmers warned to avoid beaches

Experts are urging beachgoers and fishermen to stay out of the sea this weekend, with predictions of high waves and powerful currents due to wind.

Dubai, 16th March 2011.  No swimming on rough waters at the open beach close to Burj Al Arab (not seen).  (Jeffrey E Biteng / The National)  Editor's Note;  for stocks.
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DUBAI // Swimmers and fishermen have been urged to stay on dry land this weekend as the weather turns nasty.

Strong winds are expected to lash the coast, bringing three-metre waves and the threat of powerful rip currents that can drag swimmers out to sea.

Winds of up to 24kph are expected until tomorrow afternoon, though speeds could increase again tomorrow evening, according to the National Centre of Meteorology and Seismology.

The unsettled weather was caused by strong north-westerly shamil winds that began last Monday and brought four-metre waves and a dust storm in the Al Gharbia region, an official at the centre said.

"This wind will continue until Saturday," he said. "We strongly advise fishermen and swimmers to stay away from the sea during Friday and Saturday, until the weather gets better."

Patches of light fog are expected further inland in the early morning today and tomorrow, he added.

The bigger waves will be a magnet for surfers, but those planning to test themselves are being told to stay alert.

Red flags indicating strong surf and currents have gone up at Umm Suqeim 1 Beach, next to Burj al Arab.

"For surfers it's perhaps not as big an issue because they will prefer the bigger waves, but for swimmers I would definitely say steer clear of the water this weekend," said Richard Howes, a kite-surfing instructor in Dubai. "I would not recommend novice kite surfers to go into the water."

"People need to be more careful when taking to the beach and look out for guidelines and warnings. If they see the red flag and they enter the sea then they are putting their lives at risk," said Lt Sabil Khamis of the Dubai police rescue department.

Hussain Nasser Lootah, the director general of Dubai Municipality, said efforts to ensure beaches are safe would be stepped up. A team would be sent out to evaluate whether warning signs and lifeguards need to be increased, he said.

* The National, with additional reporting by Wafa Issa