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    Crowds expected at coast, but warning over swimming

    © Thorfinn Stainforth/Wikimedia
    The beach at Blankenberge
    © Thorfinn Stainforth/Wikimedia

    The Easter weekend appears to have kept its promise of fine weather, but visitors to the coast are being warned not to venture into the sea for a swim. Life guards are in place in some coastal communes, but they are not yet fully operational, with the season due to start only on 1 May. Above all, they are warning that the sea is for the time being too cold for swimming, whatever the temperature may be out of the water.

    According to Daphné Dumery, chair of the coast rescue service, speaking to De Standaard, “The sea is still too cold, just above nine degrees. That’s fine for going into the water up to your feet, but deadly dangerous for swimming. If you deploy life guards on the beach, you encourage visitors to think mistakenly that they can swim safely, which is not at all the case. It would be quite irresponsible to open up swimming zones now.”

    Blankenberge has seven full-time life guards on duty, even when swimming is not permitted. Earlier this week they had to turn out to help a swimmer in difficulties. The commune expects some 5,000 visitors to the beach this weekend, after two or three thousand during the week, when schools were closed for the first week of the Easter holiday. “But those people will not be sitting unsupervised,” said life guard Tom Cocle. “We don’t want to give that idea. If something happens people can call the emergency number and we will come out, as we did earlier in the week.”

    Meanwhile, at the time of writing, trains to and from the coast from Brussels were still suffering delays, after problems with signalling on the route earlier on Saturday. The problem has now been fixed, but delays continue.

    Alan Hope
    The Brussels Times