Joint response rescues 2 in disabled vessel

DANGEROUS SURF: Waves break at the Hagåtña Boat Basin on Sunday. The National Weather Service warns that high surf will continue through the week, which means dangerous conditions for swimming, boating and other water-related activities. David Castro/The Guam Daily Post

A visitor from Korea and a local fisherman are two confirmed water-related deaths over three days, along with several instances of distressed swimmers. And with ongoing warnings of high surf and life-threatening rip currents, officials are urging residents to stay out of the water until hazardous surf conditions ease.

On Monday, the Guam Fire Department issued a statement urging residents to consider “the postponement of water activities.”

GFD acting spokeswoman Cherika Chargualaf noted that GFD, U.S. Coast Guard, and Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 25 “have responded to several cases of drownings, distressed swimmers, and other water-related emergencies.” Chargualaf said anyone going into dangerous waters puts their lives as well as the lives of others at risk.

“Unnecessary risks that pose a danger to responders and good Samaritans alike should be avoided,” she stated.

On Sunday, GFD had to negotiate rough seas to reach two distressed swimmers who were about 200 yards off Bile Bay in Merizo. Just as GFD, working with the Coast Guard, brought the two swimmers safely to shore, another call of a swimmer in distress was received. Someone was swept over the reef in Tumon Bay.

Guam Visitors Bureau President Pilar Laguana said GVB officials "are extremely saddened by the drowning of a visiting guest this past weekend."

"Since yesterday, our staff reported the incident to the Korean Consulate and has been (actively) working with them and our local authorities to assist in identifying the victim and contacting his family in Korea," she said. "GVB continues to make ourselves available to the consulate to assist in this unfortunate incident. The safety of our visitors is a top priority of the Guam Visitors Bureau. We work together with first responders, our hotel industry partners, visitor safety officers and the foreign consulates to streamline communication to our guests."

Laguana said visitor safety officers patrol Tumon Bay, and the agency has updated beach signage in six different foreign languages as well a safety tips available in rental cars and on the GVB website.

"We work with the Office of Homeland Security and the National Weather Service to disseminate important information about weather and sea conditions to our industry partners and GVB members," she said. "We also encourage our tourism partners to stay informed of the weather and sea conditions and to avoid the ocean until hazardous conditions subside. Heed the advice of lifeguards, beach safety officers, beach patrol flags and signs." 

Police also recently confirmed that a man who had been fishing at the Merizo Pier on Friday afternoon drowned.

GFD “offers its sincerest condolences and prayers to the families and friends of the recent victims,” Chargualaf stated.

The Guam Homeland Security/Office of Civil Defense advises “residents and visitors to avoid the ocean until hazardous conditions subside.”

Additionally, they urge residents to “heed the advice of lifeguards, beach patrol flags, and signs.”

Hazardous conditions

Broad monsoon winds south of Tropical Storm Krosa will continue to generate dangerous surf along the west- and north-facing reefs through Friday night, according to the National Weather Service Guam Weather Forecast Office.

The following NWS advisories remain in effect:

• A high surf advisory is in effect through Friday night for Guam, Rota, Tinian, and Saipan. Avoid venturing out along reefs and beaches. Huge pounding waves can knock people unconscious and cause them to drown.

• A high risk of rip currents is expected along reefs through Friday night, producing dangerous swimming conditions for swimmers and beachgoers. Rip currents are life-threatening.

• A small craft advisory remains in effect for Guam, Rota, Tinian, and Saipan coastal waters through tonight. Inexperienced boaters are asked to avoid going out to sea in these conditions.

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