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Coast beaches reopen after triple-tragedy but surf warnings remain

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Gold Coast beaches have opened from 8am Monday after a horror spate of three drownings in 36 hours in treacherous swells, prompting urgent warnings for visitors and new residents about the dangers of the surf.

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Agencies from Surf Life Saving Queensland, City of Gold Coast and Destination Gold Coast issued warnings Monday morning for swimmers to swim between the flags at patrolled beaches during patrol hours as heavy seas continued to pound the coast.

A 34-year-old Victorian tourist on Saturday became the third person to die in powerful surf at a closed beach in the devastating run of drownings on Gold Coast beaches since Thursday.

The man was spotted in difficulty in the whitewash at Mermaid Beach at about 7:30am. Lifesavers rescued the man but he was unable to be revived and died on the shore.

On Saturday two women aged in their 20s were also hospitalised following a near-drowning at Main Beach about 2.20pm. They were taken to Gold Coast University Hospital in a stable condition.

The incidents came after Broadbeach gym manager Jake Jacobs, 32, and Victorian holidaymaker Julia Boika, 29, died on Thursday after a late-night swim at Kurrawa Beach at Broadbeach. Boika was discovered on Thursday night and Jacobs’ body was found Friday night.

In January, 21-year-old Victorian man, Mitchell Celantano, also drowned while swimming on the Gold Coast. Celantano, from East Keilor in Melbourne, drowned after an early morning swim in a Broadbeach canal while on holiday with a group of friends.

Surf Life Saving Queensland Gold Coast co-ordinator Nathan Fife urged visitors to Queensland beaches and waterways not to risk their lives.

“We put it out every year: when there’s no flags, there’s no swim,” Fife said.

“People, please don’t think you’re better than anyone else. Obey those rules. When there’s no patrol there, don’t swim.

“There’s a lot of time, 8am to 5pm, that our lifeguards and lifesavers are there. It is very sad that people risk their lives and the lives of others who have to come and save them when the lifesavers and lifeguards aren’t there.”

Destination Gold Coast’s new chief Patricia O’Callaghan said it was vital domestic and international visitors understood that they needed to swim between the flags.

“People love our beaches, our surf, and everything the Gold Coast has to offer,” O’Callaghan said.
“We need people to remember to swim between the flags.”

Launching a new $1.5 million international marketing campaign, the organisation’s first since international borders were shut during the pandemic, O’Callaghan said  New Zealand travellers would be targeted to come to the Gold Coast as soon as borders opened.

As ocean conditions settled Sunday night, City of Gold Coast opened all beaches from 8am Monday.

Conditions were still unstable Monday with the 1.5 metre swell causing strong currents close to shore.

Gold Coast chief lifeguard Warren Young told ABC Gold Coast that conditions remained challenging.

Lifeguards were advising swimmers to stay in waist depth water close to shore between the flags, he said.

Fife said while the conditions had settled, the impacts of ex-tropical cyclone Lucas that had created dangerous conditions over the past few days still lingered.

“We’ve seen the banks and deep holes and the gutters change and with this big surf that we’ve had this past week, it has changed again and it’s very unstable,” Fife said.

“There’s a lot water coming in and with the way the banks are at the moment, there’s a lot of holes where all that water is sucking out and the powerful whitewash is coming in, it is making it hard to see where the rips are.”

Stronger southerly winds are predicted for the Gold Coast region on Monday and Tuesday.

 

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