Safety First

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Recent Drownings In St. Lucy Highlight Need For Warning Signs At St. Peter's Bay


The second double-drowning for the year so far again underscores the need for more and better warnings and signage about the dangers of rip currents at some known problematic beaches around the island.  This blogger was at North Point, the scene of the latest fatalities, a few times this summer and there were absolutely no warnings around that location even though the dangers of the area are well known and drownings have occurred there in the past.  Tourists also visit this old abandoned resort and some of them venture into the water unaware of the peril that may await them.

The problem with North Point (and Rockley, Christ Church where the first double-drowning for the year occurred) is rocks and the hard surfaces they present.  At North Point these rocks are naturally occurring whereas at Rocklely there is a man-made rocky barrier (groyne) offshore.  These rocks produce rip currents (strong under tows) as waves break against them and seek exit back to sea. Swimmers and seabathers near these rocks are always in danger of being swept away by these powerful currents particularly in rough or choppy seas as is mostly always the case at North Point.  If there were warning signage of these currents at North Point, this tragedy probably may not have occurred.  Of course, boys will be boys - warning signage or no warning signage, but at least their blood would not be on the government's hands as it is again today.

This brings us again to the question of the now infamous groynes at St. Peter's Bay in Road View.  Here again we have rocks in the sea (man-made and naturally occurring) and waves, not on the order of North Point or even Rockley, but waves none the same; and we all know that the calmness of the west coast can change in the twinkling of an eye especially at this time of year.  Even before the groynes were built drownings and people getting into difficulty in the water have occurred at this location in the past.  Two weeks ago this blogger was seabathing between the southernmost and middle groynes (the only small area you can still do that really) with two women now living in the USA who were born and raised on the site where the St. Peter's Bay condos are being built who recalled how they got into trouble seabathing there as kids and had to be rescued from the water.  In other places around the world where groynes have been utilized usually there is also signage (similar to those pictured above) warning of rip currents and other dangers.  Fat chance of any such signage going up in Road View where the developers and the relevant government agencies are still in denial about the destructive effects these groynes have already had on neighboring beaches and private property, not to mention scaring away potential buyers of their million-dollar condos villas!

The upshot of this progressive myopia on the part of government in cahoots with the developers will be that ordinary Bajans will probably continue to pay the price and/or the penalty of these groynes - some with the loss of private property, some with the loss the beach amenity and the potential related tourism revenue, and some, God forbid, with the loss of their lives.  And, this is not being hyperbolic or melodramatic about the dangers of these groynes; this is about being prophetic - taking a stance over and against greed and its facilitation.  "He that hath an ear to hear let him hear..."

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