Beaches of the poor: Cheap death in Egypt

During the past two weeks, the beach of al-Agami district, west of the coastal city of Alexandria, swallowed 15 young people who went for walks, enjoying the beach. Until Friday morning, the search continued for the bodies of four members of one family from Cairo, who were drowned in al-Safa Beach in Alexandria, days after a tragic accident that occurred on al-Nakheel Beach in al-Ajami, when 11 people drowned.

The drowning incidents came despite the Egyptian government shutting down public beaches as part of precautionary measures to counter the coronavirus. But the recurrence of drowning accidents during the past years, especially in Palm Beach, which became known as the “beach of death,” leads to the question about why it keeps happening, the extent of the state’s responsibility, and the absence of supervision and services on the beaches.

Palm Beach

Palm Beach has recorded the highest incidences in drowning cases among all Alexandria beaches, despite its official closure since 2018, and the placing of black flags on it, which means that swimming is prohibited. At dawn on July 10, the beach waves swallowed 11 young people and the government denied its responsibility for their deaths, considering that they had gone to the sea despite the closure of the beach, as is what happened at the al-Safa Beach incident in which four members of one family were killed. For its part, the 6th of October Association explained in a statement that the Central Administration for Tourism and Resorts is responsible for Palm Beach, after its administration was withdrawn from it last year, and confirmed that the association does not currently manage the beach, while the governor instructed the officials to increase rescue workers, and assign supervisors

However, photos have circulated showing people on the beach and swimming in the sea, even after the recent incidents of drowning. Although the various state agencies shirk their responsibility for the drownings, many specialists explained that the concrete barriers (fenders) that the government set inside the sea a few metres from the shore are the cause of the drownings. The former president of the Maritime Rescue Association, Hassan Fouad, confirmed in press statements that the existing concrete barriers increased the intensity of the whirlpools inside the sea.

The absence of rescue

Although the concrete barriers are one of the reasons for increasing drowning accidents at al-Nakheel Beach in Al-Ajami, there are many other factors mentioned by experts, including the lack of a qualified rescue team, and the absence of rescue boats to make rescue operations faster. There is a lack of first aid, especially the use of breathing apparatus.

Activists on social media shared, with anger, the statement made by the director of the Central Administration for Tourism and Resorts in Alexandria who said that 80 per cent of holidaymakers are not good swimmers and they go down to swim out of the official working times for divers and rescue teams.

Beaches of the poor

Alexandria is a top destination for many Egyptian families. Alexandria, Baltim, Ras el-Bar, and Gamasa are considered the most prominent summer resorts in Egypt, especially for one-day weekend trips. These beaches are usually crowded with visitors at such a time of year, despite the limited capabilities and services provided, and its overwhelming crowds. With the high cost of renting apartments, large numbers of vacationers go to the cheap beaches known as “the beaches of the poor” in the Red and the Mediterranean Sea.

These beaches suffer from neglect, as rocks, stones and piles of garbage dot them from each side, and there are no clean toilets or places to get changed.