Tight security on beaches pays off

Mary Papayya

Mary Papayya

Security forces in KwaZulu-Natal were stretched to the limit as hundreds of thousands of people flocked to the province's beaches to celebrate New Year's Day.

Authorities said the turnout was the highest in recent years and by lunch-time, beaches on the north and south coasts were packed to capacity. Emergency and rescue teams joined forces with the SAPS, metro police, volunteers and private security companies to patrol the beaches.

An 18-year-old man drowned off the north coast and two other swimmers were plucked to safety after getting into difficulty. This brings to 14 the number of people who have drowned since the start of the holiday season.

Netcare 911 spokesman Chris Botha said the drowning was the only serious incident to mar what was otherwise a smooth day.

"The unidentified man came into difficulty in the surf off Ballito. We dispatched our rescue helicopter to the scene. By the time a lifeguard managed to get to him, it was too late," Botha said

Rescuers using a helicopter plucked two swimmers out of the water at Zinkwazi after they came into difficulty and were washed out to sea. Another swimmer was also rescued at nearby Tinley Manor Beach.

In Durban, where more than 70000 people gathered on the city's beaches, access control to the main beach area was carefully monitored by security officials, some of whom were on horseback and four-by-four vehicles.

Permits were needed in certain areas and alcohol consumption by revellers was also carefully monitored by the police.

Police spokesman Phindile Hadebe said: "People are behaving themselves. No serious incidents have been reported so far."

She said unlike previous year's when many children went missing, no one had so far gone missing. She attributed this to the successful identification campaign by police in conjunction with Durban Municipality.

"The distribution of identification armbands that contain the telephone numbers of parents has helped. We had two children who lost their parents but they were reunited shortly thereafter."

On the south coast, excited beach goers also made good use of the sunny weather and crowded most beaches. Despite the stretched security resources, no serious incidents had been reported by late yesterday.

The situation on the province's roads was also quiet and no major accidents were reported. Traffic inspectorate spokesman Zinhle Mngomezulu said the deployment of more than 600 traffic officers throughout the province and the more than 30 roadblocks set up in peak traffic areas since the start of the holiday season appeared to have paid off.