Dangerous winds, waves bring abrupt halt to Yilan ocean swim in N. Taiwan

Four people had to be rescued from ocean less than 1 hour after event began

Swimmers returning to shore after brief swim in wild waters

Swimmers returning to shore after brief swim in wild waters (CNA photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) -- Four swimmers had to be rescued and one fell into a coma after wind and waves disrupted the Lanyang Ocean Swim to Guishan Island (蘭陽海上長泳-迎向龜山) on Monday morning (May 27) in Yilan County.

Around 1,127 swimmers took part in the ocean swim that started off in calm conditions at 8:30 a.m. Winds and waves quickly turned dangerous after 9:00 a.m., forcing the fire department to call an abrupt halt to the event.

Most swimmers had been in the water less than 30 minutes, with the farthest only about 200 meters from shore when safety officials called off the swim. Rescue operations were launched at 9:12 a.m. for swimmers unable to get back to shore.

Four swimmers were rescued from the waves, but one of them, a 72 year old woman, surnamed Liang (梁) fell into a coma. She is now intubated at Saint Mary’s Hospital in nearby Luodong (羅東), with a coma scale of three, reports UDN.

CNA reports that a 51 year old male swimmer also lost consciousness briefly, but was revived after receiving first aid.

The event has been held without major incident for 14 years, and many swimmers were looking forward to this year’s swim as well. The distance to Gueishan Island, also known as "Turtle Island," and back is about 3 kilometers.

Yilan County officials told CNA that they were well prepared to deal with the sudden changes in weather, with 240 lifeguard and medical personnel on standby for the event, equipped with lifeguards on ambulance boats and jet skis.

Guishan Island (Wikimedia Commons)