By Park Si-soo
Rescue workers covering Busan’s beaches are on the highest alert for repeated rip currents, a strong channel of water flowing seaward from the shore.
Nearly 60 people at Haeundae Beach needed to be rescued over the past three days after being dragged into deeper waters by the currents, which can be as fast as 2.5 meters per second, police said Sunday.
Fortunately, no casualties were reported but the authorities said given that the ideal weather conditions for rip currents are persisting, they could occur again at anytime not only at Haeundae but also at other beaches.
“If you’re pulled away from the beach by the currents, don’t fight them and instead wait for rescue workers and try to save as much energy as possible,” said Kim Dong-hwan, a senior rescuer at Busan Fire Department. “Death by drowning often comes following exhaustion from fighting these ocean currents.”
The latest rip current in Haeundae occurred around noon on Saturday, dragging 10 swimmers as far as 50 meters away from the shore. They were immediately pulled out of the water by rescue personnel, police said.
On Friday, another reverse current swept 20 beachgoers in Haeundae, taking them as far as 30 meters from the beach.
The first strong rip current of the year occurred in Haeundae on Thursday. Of the 26 people affected, one was hospitalized for an excessive intake of salt water.
Rescuers are paying particular attention to the currents in front of Paradise Hotel because of the frequency there.
“We have tightened monitoring. However this is basically a natural phenomenon. We can rescue people but it’s impossible to prevent such currents,” a lifeguard said.
Maritime experts explained that a rip current is created when wind and waves push water toward the shore. That water is often forced sideways by the oncoming waves. This water streams along the shoreline until it finds an exit back to the sea, creating a rip current on the way out.
Last year, a total of 42 rip currents were recorded on Busan beaches.
In response, the Korean Meteorological Administration plans to set up monitoring equipment to assess weather conditions and issue rip current warnings on Busan’s beaches from next year.
해수욕장에서 이안류 조심
부산 해수욕장 구조대가 해안에서 바다쪽으로 흐르는 물의 강한 물길인 이안류가 재발할 가능성에 대해 최고의 경계태세를 하고 있다.
경찰은 일요일 해운대 해수욕장에서 지난 3일 연속 초당 2.5미터나 되는 조류에 의해 깊은 바다로 빠져 들어가는 60명 가까운 피서객을 구조했다.
다행히 이 이안류에 의한 사상자 신고는 없었으나 당국은 계속 이안류가 생성되는 이상적인 기상조건에서 해운대 뿐 아니라 다른 해수욕장에서도 언제든지 다시 일어날 수 있다.
부산소방재청의 김동환 상급 구호대는 “만약 해수욕장에서 이 같은 조류로 끌려 들어가며 이를 헤쳐 나오려 하지 말고 가능한 한 에너지를 허비하지 말고 구조대가 올 때까지 기다리라” 며 “해류를 빠져 나오려다 지쳐 빠져 죽을 수가 있다”고 강조했다.