France warned on 30% rise in accidental drownings

The number of accidental drownings in France rose by 30% in the summer of 2018, health agency Santé Publique France (SPF) has warned.

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This amounted to 1,649 accidental drownings between June 1 and September 30, 2018, a spike of 30% compared to previous figures from 2015.

The average age of drowning is 22 years and 5 months, SPF said. Most drowning counted was accidental (84%), with 8% of unknown cause and 8% intentional.

A quarter of drownings ended in death, with the average age of those who go on to die after the incident at 51 years, 6 months.

Unsurprisingly, the departments with the highest reports of drowning were those with a coastline, including the Var, Bouches-du-Rhône, Gironde, Hérault and the Pyrénées-Orientales, which accounted for a third of drownings between them alone.

More than two in five incidents happen in the sea (44%), followed by swimming pools (31%) or other areas of water (22%). Most sea drownings affect adults aged 45 and over, while swimming pool incidents tend to affect children under the age of 6. Other areas of water affect adults aged 25-44.

As summer approaches, the risk of drowning continues to increase.

Across France - and especially in areas where the risk is high - fire crews often host workshops on how to prevent drowning, and what to do if you see someone in distress.

The main advice is:

  • Get the victim out of the water without endangering yourself
  • Lie them down in the safety position (lying on one side, with one leg bent over, and arms up, with one hand just under their cheek, head facing towards the floor)
  • Call the emergency services immediately
  • Check the victim’s pulse and breathing
  • If they are not breathing, start CPR - including breathing into their mouth followed by chest compressions - until the emergency services arrive

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