Romanian lifeguards oppose seaside safety initiative for “making the Black Sea look like a graveyard”

An NGO's initiative to promote seaside safety at the Romanian seaside has outraged the lifeguards and tourists. The wave of negative and deriding comments in the media determined Secretary of State Raed Arafat to drop the project.

The SMURD Foundation attempted to place cross-shaped buoys in the Black Sea to warn people of the fact that inattentiveness in the water can have severe consequences and to discourage swimmers from venturing out too far, lest they drown.

The buoys were donated by the SMURD Foundation to each of the lifeguard services on the coast: two in Mamaia, one for North and South Eforie, one in Vama Veche, and one in Saturn.

The special buoys have a bright orange cross sitting atop, together with a plaque bearing the message “No adventure past the buoy. Danger of drowning past this point!” and a tally of the people who drowned in the Black Sea during 2021: “36 people died last year after they went past the buoys. Turn back now!”

These unusual objects have sparked a wave of hostile reactions from tourists and lifeguards alike, who think that the buoys are a bad idea. The negative reaction has been so strong that the new buoys have only been installed in Vama Veche and Eforie, as other lifeguards flat out refuse to do so.

Vasile Borteș, former head of lifeguards on the Romanian southern coast, told Europa FM that tourists are outraged that the authorities are making the Black Sea look like a graveyard, and said that he believes that this idea is “sinister and morbid”.

In another interview, Gabriel Bălan, president of the National Association of Professional Divers and Lifeguards of Romania, angrily poked fun at the buoys’ messaging stating: “If you look on this cross, it says that last year – what year, we don't know - 36 people died. I take it that this cross is either going to be remade every year with an updated number, or else we are being forced to have a norm of 36 deaths every year so that this cross is good every year. It's mind-boggling, I've never seen anything like this before and I'm telling you, in Mamaia and Constanta, while we're here, they're never going to put something like this on the water.”

Whilst Gabriel Culea, head of Mamaia’s and Constanta’s lifeguards, said that these buoys do not meet the necessary conditions to be useful as a safety precaution, pointing out that the buoys could actually pose a danger to swimmers: “This buoy - whoever designed it didn't realize that they’ve actually made an object that can hurt someone very seriously. The moment a big wave comes that buoy starts swaying, and the information plaque that they put up can break someone's head.”

Gabriel Bălan seems to agree: “They're sharp, pointy things stuck together with rivets. If there's a wave and the wave takes you into a buoy, it will hit you and you can get cut!”

On the other hand, Gheorghe Vătămănescu, head of Eforie’s lifeguards, told Adevărul that he has set up the buoy and that he sincerely hopes it will have an effect, although he is personally  convinced that it won’t: “Nothing is taken into account at sea: neither our warnings nor the red flag. Nobody pays any attention to warnings until the critical moment when they need help. But if there's one person who sees this buoy and doesn't venture out to sea, it's a win.”

That being said, the head of the Eforie Lifeguard Service has since told News.ro that a storm broke the buoy that was set up in Eforie has already been damaged. The cross broke off during a storm, and only the base and the plaque remain.

Secretary of State and president of SMURD, Raed Arafat was upset by the lifeguards’ reactions. He responded to their statements in a Facebook post, where he explained the thinking behind the cross-buoys and expressed his frustration at how they’d been received: "I've done it again!"

“We tried to do something to increase drowning prevention actions during the summer season. Surely seeing a red buoy with a cross on it from a distance has a much smaller impact than seeing how a drowned person is pulled out by the lifeguards and firemen. It is much more traumatic for an adult, and especially a child, to see an attempted resuscitation and a person declared dead. But Facebook and the media have been filled with comments, including from some in the field of sea rescue, for whom the main interest is to "join the trend of critics" instead of saving lives and implementing innovative methods that could do so.”

On Tuesday, Secretary of State Raed Arafat was asked about the cross-buoys during a meeting at the Parliament, according to Agerpres. Mr. Arafat was annoyed and responded: “What is the problem? Why are you making an issue out of something irrelevant? The idea is killed and over. That's it.”

maia@romania-insider.com

(Photo source: Inquam Photos / George Calin)

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Romanian lifeguards oppose seaside safety initiative for “making the Black Sea look like a graveyard”

An NGO's initiative to promote seaside safety at the Romanian seaside has outraged the lifeguards and tourists. The wave of negative and deriding comments in the media determined Secretary of State Raed Arafat to drop the project.

The SMURD Foundation attempted to place cross-shaped buoys in the Black Sea to warn people of the fact that inattentiveness in the water can have severe consequences and to discourage swimmers from venturing out too far, lest they drown.

The buoys were donated by the SMURD Foundation to each of the lifeguard services on the coast: two in Mamaia, one for North and South Eforie, one in Vama Veche, and one in Saturn.

The special buoys have a bright orange cross sitting atop, together with a plaque bearing the message “No adventure past the buoy. Danger of drowning past this point!” and a tally of the people who drowned in the Black Sea during 2021: “36 people died last year after they went past the buoys. Turn back now!”

These unusual objects have sparked a wave of hostile reactions from tourists and lifeguards alike, who think that the buoys are a bad idea. The negative reaction has been so strong that the new buoys have only been installed in Vama Veche and Eforie, as other lifeguards flat out refuse to do so.

Vasile Borteș, former head of lifeguards on the Romanian southern coast, told Europa FM that tourists are outraged that the authorities are making the Black Sea look like a graveyard, and said that he believes that this idea is “sinister and morbid”.

In another interview, Gabriel Bălan, president of the National Association of Professional Divers and Lifeguards of Romania, angrily poked fun at the buoys’ messaging stating: “If you look on this cross, it says that last year – what year, we don't know - 36 people died. I take it that this cross is either going to be remade every year with an updated number, or else we are being forced to have a norm of 36 deaths every year so that this cross is good every year. It's mind-boggling, I've never seen anything like this before and I'm telling you, in Mamaia and Constanta, while we're here, they're never going to put something like this on the water.”

Whilst Gabriel Culea, head of Mamaia’s and Constanta’s lifeguards, said that these buoys do not meet the necessary conditions to be useful as a safety precaution, pointing out that the buoys could actually pose a danger to swimmers: “This buoy - whoever designed it didn't realize that they’ve actually made an object that can hurt someone very seriously. The moment a big wave comes that buoy starts swaying, and the information plaque that they put up can break someone's head.”

Gabriel Bălan seems to agree: “They're sharp, pointy things stuck together with rivets. If there's a wave and the wave takes you into a buoy, it will hit you and you can get cut!”

On the other hand, Gheorghe Vătămănescu, head of Eforie’s lifeguards, told Adevărul that he has set up the buoy and that he sincerely hopes it will have an effect, although he is personally  convinced that it won’t: “Nothing is taken into account at sea: neither our warnings nor the red flag. Nobody pays any attention to warnings until the critical moment when they need help. But if there's one person who sees this buoy and doesn't venture out to sea, it's a win.”

That being said, the head of the Eforie Lifeguard Service has since told News.ro that a storm broke the buoy that was set up in Eforie has already been damaged. The cross broke off during a storm, and only the base and the plaque remain.

Secretary of State and president of SMURD, Raed Arafat was upset by the lifeguards’ reactions. He responded to their statements in a Facebook post, where he explained the thinking behind the cross-buoys and expressed his frustration at how they’d been received: "I've done it again!"

“We tried to do something to increase drowning prevention actions during the summer season. Surely seeing a red buoy with a cross on it from a distance has a much smaller impact than seeing how a drowned person is pulled out by the lifeguards and firemen. It is much more traumatic for an adult, and especially a child, to see an attempted resuscitation and a person declared dead. But Facebook and the media have been filled with comments, including from some in the field of sea rescue, for whom the main interest is to "join the trend of critics" instead of saving lives and implementing innovative methods that could do so.”

On Tuesday, Secretary of State Raed Arafat was asked about the cross-buoys during a meeting at the Parliament, according to Agerpres. Mr. Arafat was annoyed and responded: “What is the problem? Why are you making an issue out of something irrelevant? The idea is killed and over. That's it.”

maia@romania-insider.com

(Photo source: Inquam Photos / George Calin)

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