President of the Lifeguard Branch of the National Union of Government and Federated Workers NUGFW Augustus Sylvester speaks to GML reporter yesterday at the Guardian on St Vincent Street, Port-of-Spain yesterday.

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While the Easter weekend is about celebrating the death and resurrection of Christ, for some, it is about sun, sand and sea.

However, as beach lovers gear up for a weekend at beaches, lifeguards say many of them will do so at their own risk. The warning came at meteorologists forecasted periods of choppy waters, swells and rainfall mixed with sunny conditions.

Augustus Sylvester, a spokesperson for members of the Lifeguard Service, warned that as thousands come out, they are severely understaffed.

Speaking on The Morning Brew on CNC3 yesterday, Sylvester said lifeguards have no sea vessels to respond swiftly to people in distress. Even after they swim out to retrieve people, there are no ambulances to take them to the nearest health facility.

“The most we can do, which we continue to do, is to take them out of the water, which is putting our lives at risk because we have to go to deal with them on a physical basis rather than with the equipment to do that. And we have no ambulances. If those people need advanced medical care, we then have to call EHS,” Sylvester said.

He said within the past three years, the Lifeguard Service went from a fleet of 13 vehicles, including three ambulances to none. He said the Ministry of National Security claims there are no funds for repairs or replacements. He compared this to the government’s closure and repair of Macqueripe Bay in just three weeks.

Even the lifeguard towers are in disrepair, and within the past 11 years, he said there were no new recruitments while people have left. Lifeguards requested several meeting with Ministry officials, but there were never any responses.

“When I say the lifeguards are there, we are talking about a short-staff. We are talking about 10 lifeguards to man a beach like Maracas where you have thousands of people. You have six or seven people (lifeguards) in Las Cuevas. That is the staff.”

He said they wrote to the Minister of National Security Stuart Young seeking a meeting but are yet to get a response.

He said lifeguards are at a high risk of contracting COVID-19 as they physically administer aid to people, even having to bring them into their building where there is no Personal Protective Equipment.

Guardian Media sought to contact Young, but he did not respond to any messages we sent.

The weekend forecast is mostly sunny but with the odd isolated shower on Friday and Saturday. People can look out for hazy conditions on Saturday. Sunday into Monday, however, will be mostly cloudy to overcast with periods of showers and rain.

Seas on Friday in open waters are expected to be between 2-2.5 metres and one metre in sheltered areas but choppy. Marine interests and beachgoers should exercise extreme caution since long period swells with spring tides.

Saturday through Monday, waves in open waters between 1.5-2.0 metres, occasionally above the 2-meter mark. In sheltered areas near 1 metre. There will still belong period swells affecting the north and east coasts, so caution is needed.

With the ratio of lifeguards to bathers expected to be worrisome, they ask that beachgoers follow their instruction.

Most importantly, they are asking parents and guardian to supervise children.

“You cannot supervise a child while you are on the beach on your phone or your tablet, and your child is in the water, 25 metres away from you.”

Sylvester said younger children should only be an arm’s length away from an adult.