PUTRAJAYA – The government has identified 12 places in the country with at least five or more cases of drowning and has called for monitoring by the Fire and Rescue Department during the school holidays.
These hotspots, identified by the Urban Well-being, Housing and Local Government Ministry as highly risky for water activities, are Sungai Kg Batu Payung in Tawau, Sabah, (which claimed 15 lives); Sungai SKC in Kg Timah, Selangor, (seven); Sungai Kg Sabak in Pangkalan Chepa, Kelantan, (six); Sungai Chiling (six) and Sungai Gasi (five) in Selangor.
Sungai Sendat Waterfall, Selangor, (12); Berembun Waterfall in Raub, Pahang, (10): Chamang Waterfall, Pahang (five); Nipah Coast, Kelantan, (14); Tok Bali Estuary, Kelantan, (seven); Teluk Bahang, Penang, (seven); Semenyih Dam, Selangor, (10).
Minister Tan Sri Noh Omar, who disclosed these details, said he had instructed the Fire and Rescue Department to monitor these areas during the school holidays.
Speaking at a press conference after chairing a meeting of the Water Activity Security Council here today, he said Fire and Rescue Department statistics showed that 65 cases of drowning occurred in water bodies or recreational spots in the first two months of this year.
Forty-two of the cases occurred in rivers/canals, 11 off the coasts, eight at waterfalls and four in lakes/mining pools, he added.
“A total of 327 cases of drowning in water bodies and recreational spots were reported last year, up from the 260 in 2016,” he said.
Noh said the ministry planned to enforce by-laws to act against individuals who conducted water activities in prohibited areas.
“It cannot be denied that some visitors do not take heed of the warning on signboards in the high-risk areas where water activities are banned.
“As such, the ministry feels that penalties and fines have to be imposed against those who violate the laws,” he said, adding that these were provided for in the Water Activity Safety Action Plan that was approved at today’s meeting.
Noh said the plan was approved to foster awareness on water safety in a holistic manner in the effort to reduce cases of drowning in the country.
He also said that warning signboards would be put up at the high-risk hotspots and the dilapidated signboards would be replaced by the local authorities and relevant agencies.
“The ministry proposes that the Education Ministry introduce a curriculum under physical education to expose pupils and students to the risks in water activities so as to address the cases of drowning among schoolchildren,” he said.
He also said that the ministry planned to establish a data centre through the National Blue Ocean Strategy with the help of the police, Health Ministry and NGOs to gather important data to reduce the cases of drowning.
Noh said the ministry would present to the Cabinet and the National Council of Local Authorities short- and long-term action plans for approval so as to be applied in reducing the number of drowning cases.
He also said that the ministry would conduct a Water Safety Awareness Programme at Pantai Cahaya Negeri, Batu 5, Port Dickson on March 16. – BERNAMA