Drowning accidents on rise in Morocco as people seek relief from scorching heat

Drowning accidents on rise in Morocco as people seek relief from scorching heat
With few places to seek relief from a weeks-long blistering heatwave, Moroccans are resorting to swimming in reservoirs and other dangerous spots to escape the high temperatures.
3 min read
20 July, 2023
A sign by the Abdelmoumen dam close to Agadir warns against swimming [Fadel Senna/AFP via Getty]

Morocco has seen a tragic rise in drowning accidents in recent weeks as young people resort to swimming in reservoirs, valleys and unmonitored beaches to escape a blistering heatwave.

The country has been in the grip of a heatwave since late June, with temperatures over the last month having reached highs of 48 degrees Celsius in some provinces.

Community activists and government institutions in Morocco have issued warnings about the increase in drowning incidents, the latest of which was the drowning of an 11-year old child in Oued Sra, a river running through Taounate province in northern Morocco, on 6 July.

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Two days earlier, a 19-year old man drowned while swimming in the Zerrar reservoir in Essaouira province, and six drownings were recorded in the same week in Taounate, Sefrou and Boulemane cities, including that of a 70-year old man, according to Taounate local news site TaouNet.

"With the onset of summer and high temperatures, a number of citizens have resorted to reservoirs in order to swim, without considering the dangers that threaten their safety and lives," said Moroccan website Maadialna, affiliated with the Moroccan Ministry of Equipment and Water.

The site pointed out that although "these lakes seem safe on the surface, bathing and swimming in them pose a great danger to citizens".

Awareness campaigns have been launched in recent years by the Moroccan authorities warning of the dangers of swimming in dam waters.

Environmental specialist Mostafa El-Aissat told The New Arab's Arabic-language sister edition Al-Araby Al-Jadeed: "With no basic infrastructure such as swimming pools and sports venues in the villages and small towns, young people resort to creating their own outlets and spaces for swimming in the valleys and dam lakes, despite the dangers.

"As a civil society, we have been struggling for a minimum level of opportunities to be provided to Moroccan youth, through the Ministry of Youth Protection, and we asked for a (youth) card which would allow entry to camping sites and recreation centres at affordable prices, and to get tickets for transport or entry to public swimming pools and leisure spaces at lower costs […] but these demands have not yet been met."

Camping and recreation facilities need to be provided in areas which lack them, warning signs need to be erected at sites where it is too dangerous to swim, and protection teams need to be sent to areas where people have set up their own recreational spaces to prevent drowning accidents, Aissat said.

According to official data, the most deaths of swimmers in reservoirs and lakes are recorded in the regions of Rabat-Salé-Kénitra, Béni Mellal-Khénifra, Casablanca-Settat  and Marrakesh-Safi.

Between 2018 and 2021, 151 people drowned in reservoirs or unmonitored lakes and rivers in Morocco.

The EU's climate monitoring service said the world saw its hottest ever June last month.

This article is based on an article which appeared in our Arabic edition by Adil Najdi on 18 July 2023. To read the original article click here.