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Warm July sees 26 drowning deaths in Finland -- so far

Several studies have shown that more than half of adults who have drowned had been inebriated.

Uimareita Rovaniemen uimarannalla
Image: Uula Kuvaja / Yle

The interest group representing swimming teaching and lifesaving organisations in Finland, SUH, said Sunday that up to Saturday, some 26 people had reportedly drowned during the month of July.

SUH noted that fatalities in July were equivalent to the total number of drowning deaths that had taken place between January and June.

"The July heat means swimming deaths. It is a recurring pattern where people set out for a swim in the water near their cottages and are later found drowned," said the organisation’s training planner Anne Hiltunen.

She noted that alcohol also played a role in many drowning deaths. Several studies have shown that more than half of adults who have drowned had been inebriated.

The number of drownings generally correlates with high temperatures, but this year’s figures are not the worst in recent memory, SUH said. More people lost their lives in the water during the torrid summer of 2010, when more than 50 people drowned in July alone.

According to Hiltunen, this development suggests that Finnish residents have learned to exercise caution near the water.

"It has been eight years since and I hope that awareness has helped and that people have got some sense into their heads," Hiltunen added.

Swimmers should stay close to the beach

For the entire year up to Saturday, a total of 54 people had drowned in Finland, the majority of them middle-aged men. Fewer than 10 drowning victims this year were women.

In general, drowning deaths claim victims who are middle-aged or even older. By mid-July, all of the people who had been confirmed as drowned were over 60.

This year, drowning deaths in Finland occurred while individuals were swimming. Before mid-July 12 people lost their lives while swimming. The majority of other drowning deaths occurred while people were boating or after falling through ice during winter.

Hiltunen urged swimmers to remember to swim along the beach and cautioned boating enthusiasts to always wear a life vest. In cases of emergency, she advised first alerting the authorities before using equipment to try and rescue a drowning person. She said it is also important to try and calm the accident victim.

"Drowning people can be quite powerful. If they are hit by panic, you can very quickly have two victims," she counselled.

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