|Boys play in a river in the southernmost province of Cà Mau. Children under 15 need to be protected from unsafe swimming in open waters. — VNA/VNS Photo Kim Há|
HÀ NỘI — Eight children drowned in a single incident last week in northern Hòa Bình Province, again raising the alarm about this epidemic that kills some 2,000 children in Việt Nam each year.
The students, aged 10 to 15, drowned last Thursday while swimming in the Đà River near Hòa Bình City.
A group of 10 students of Hữu Nghị primary and secondary schools had an afternoon off and decided to go swimming in the section of the river running through Thịnh Minh Hamlet, Thịnh Lang Ward. Unfortunately, eight of the students drowned. The two others escaped but were reported to be in a state of shock.
Xa Đình Hoàng, 10, one of the two boys who escaped, told Tiền phong (Vanguard) newspaper that: “Until now, I myself still could not understand what had happened.”
The students were playing with a ball under the water when the ball was suddenly pushed away by the water. They then saw signs of whirlpool so all of them tried to swim back to the riverbank, according to Hoàng.
Hoàng was nearest to the riverbank so he could quickly escape but eight others were not so lucky, despite being mere metres from the riverbank.
“I had just reached the riverbank when hearing other students calling for help. One student swam right after me but was suddenly swept away. I was so scared and ran to call for help from adults,” Hoàng said.
Nguyễn Ngọc Hiển, a local resident, said drowning accidents happened every year at that section of the river and said he had saved six children from drowning over the years.
Sand exploitation in the river created a wide basin at that section and whirlpools created high risks of drowning, according to Hiến.
He added that although local authorities had erected warning signs, many people still swam in the area.
Vice Chairwoman of Thịnh Lang Ward People’s Committee Nguyễn Thị Mỹ Bình said local authorities installed warning signs to stop people from swimming in the, but some had been removed by local residents while others were swept away by floods.
She noted that local authorities have kept trying to raise public awareness of drowning risks and held swimming classes for local students.
The accident should serve as a lesson and an alarm for schools, families and authorities to pay more attention to protecting children, she said.
After the accident, Prime Minister Nguyễn Xuân Phúc issued an official dispatch, ordering the Ministry of Public Security to investigate the accident.
He requested agencies and People’s Committees in cities and provinces to reinforce anti-drowning efforts and improve awareness about drowning prevention for children.
Đặng Hoa Nam, Head of the Ministry of Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs’ Department of Children Care and Protection, told the newspaper that it was necessary to teach children both swimming and safety skills.
Drowning claims the lives of more than 2,000 children each year in Việt Nam, making it the country’s leading cause of deaths for people aged under 15
The rate of child drowning in Việt Nam is higher than in other Southeast Asian countries and 10 times higher than in some developed countries.