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Vietnamese beach town warns tourists of savage rip currents

By Nguyen Khoa   March 2, 2018 | 12:42 am PT
Vietnamese beach town warns tourists of savage rip currents
A rescuer stands against black flags warning of rip currents in Vung Tau as he signals for some tourists to leave a dangerous spot. Photo by VnExpress/Nguyen Khoa
Drunk swimmers sometimes ignore the lifeguards in an attempt to show off on Vung Tau's coast.

Lifeguards went into overdrive on Thursday morning at a beach in Vung Tau when a pair of tourists ignored their warning whistles and plunged deeper into dangerous waters.

Instead of listening to the shrill warnings, the couple waded closer to waters overshadowed by black flags bearing the skull and crossbones. Within seconds, they were caught in the rip tide, and were only rescued in the nick of time.

Rip tides, fast-flowing rough water caused by a meeting of currents, are a common threat during the windy spring season in Vung Tau, a popular beach destination outside Saigon, and local tourist officials are warning visitors to watch out.

Pham Khac To, deputy chief of tourism management in the town, said rescuers saved dozens of tourists during the Lunar New Year festival last month.

To said some rip currents had stretched more than 100 meters. “It’s very unsafe for tourists.”

Authorities have put up black flags around danger areas, while rescue speedboats are patrolling the beaches  and 25 rescue and medical workers are on hand to deal with emergencies.

“Some people are very careless and ignore the warnings,” Ngo The Mien, a lifeguard, said.

He said some people just swim wherever they like, without being aware of the risks.

Mien said his rescue team does not usually have problems with foreigners. “We just have to whistle and they normally leave.”

But some Vietnamese people are difficult to deal with.

There have been times when drunk people have tried to show off by swimming straight into the flags and breaking the poles, he said.

Others have even argued with lifeguards after being warned of the dangers, he said.

Graphics by the U.S. Naitonal Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration instruct how one person can escape rip currents.

Graphics by the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration instruct how one person can escape rip currents.

Lifeguards recommend that people should avoid fighting the rip, and instead swim out of the current and toward the shore. Or they can just tread water and wait for help.

“Keep calm and please scream for help,” one lifeguard said.

Rip currents in Vung Tau killed at least 60 people between 2010 and 2015, and a Swedish tourist drowned in March 2016.

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