Australian surf deadlier than bushfires, sharks

File photo shows huge surf near Sydney's Bondi beach, as study reveals Australian surf kills more people than bushfires, cyclones, floods and sharks combined

The Australian surf kills more people than bushfires, cyclones, floods and sharks combined, according to a study released Wednesday which found rip currents were far more likely to be deadly than other natural hazards.

Australia is known for its destructive summer wildfires, storms and dangerous predators such as which are common in its waters, but researchers at the University of New South Wales said there was an unheralded killer in the sea.

"Rips account for greater overall loss of human life than other high profile ," said lead author of the study, coastal geomorphologist Rob Brander.

"Yet they do not get anywhere near as much attention and dedicated funding."

The study, published in the Europe-based journal Natural Hazards and Earth Science Systems, found that caused an average of 21 confirmed human fatalities per year in Australia.

This compared with 7.5 deaths for cyclones, 5.9 for bushfires, 4.3 for floods and one for sharks, producing a combined total of less than 19.

Rips are strong, narrow currents which pull swimmers away from the beach and can easily carry them well offshore, causing them to become panicked and exhausted —- a state in which they can drown.

The study analysed data from Australia's National Coronial Information System and found there was an average 21 confirmed deaths involving rips per year for the period of 2004 to 2011.

"And this is likely to be an underestimate because there has to be a witness to an event who saw the person was caught in a rip, and then this information has to be included in the coronial report," said Brander.

Researchers then used information from the Australian Emergency Management Institute's National Disaster Database to identify the average number of deaths per year caused by , bushfires and floods since the mid-to-late 1800s.

The Australian Shark Attack File administered by Taronga Zoo in Sydney shows there has been an average of one death a year since 1962.

Brander said while the rip data was only available for a shorter time frame, he was confident it was still the biggest hazard because many deaths caused by the currents were not officially recorded as such.

"Other types of hazards, like bushfires, have the capacity to claim large numbers of lives in a single event," said Brander.

"On the other hand, rip currents are almost always present and rarely result in more than one death at a time. But in the end, more people die as a result of them."

Australia is famed for its 11,000 mainland beaches and an estimated 17,500 rip currents would be operating around the coast at any given time, the study said.

Because rips flow faster than most people can swim, those caught in them are advised to float and signal for help.

Related Stories

Image: Many bushfires in New South Wales, Australia

date Oct 28, 2013

NASA's Terra satellite detected dozens of bushfires continued raging in the Australian state of New South Wales, outside of Sydney. Sydney is the state capital and the most populated city in Australia.

NASA image: Bushfires in north of Western Australia

date Jun 17, 2013

According to the Australian Government Bureau of Meterology, "In the warm, dry and sunny winter and spring, when grasses are dead and fuels have dried, northern Australia becomes most susceptible to bushfires. ...

Australian climate on 'steroids' after hottest summer

date Mar 04, 2013

Australia's weather went "on steroids" over a summer that saw an unprecedented heatwave, bushfires and floods, the climate chief said Monday, warning that global warming would only make things worse.

Recommended for you

Increased morbidity, mortality in food system industries

date 25 minutes ago

(HealthDay)—Occupational morbidity and mortality are elevated across food system industries compared with nonfood system industries, according to a study published online May 12 in the Journal of Occupational an ...

Three issues to consider before selecting EHR

date 1 hour ago

(HealthDay)—Work flow, features and functionality, and technical infrastructure should all be considered in advance of selecting an electronic heath record (EHR) system, according to an article published ...

Research letter: Indoor tanning rates drop among US adults

date 2 hours ago

Indoor tanning rates dropped among adults from 5.5 percent in 2010 to 4.2 percent in 2013, although an estimated 7.8 million women and 1.9 million men still engage in the practice, which has been linked to increased cancer ...

Stunting remains a challenge in South Africa

date 3 hours ago

Stunting remains stubbornly persistent in South Africa, despite economic growth, political and social transitions, and national nutritional programmes, says a Wits-led research team.

User comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.