Taiwan saw record number of drowning cases last year

Over 500 deaths from drowning reported in Taiwan in 2019

Training rescue team in Hsinchu. (Hsinchu County Government Photo)

Training rescue team in Hsinchu. (Hsinchu County Government Photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — In 2019, Taiwan recorded its highest number of drowning accidents ever, according to data released Sunday (Sept. 6) by the Fire Department of the Ministry of the Interior.

Based on ministry figures, there were 948 water-related accidents in 2019. These cases were categorized based on the outcomes: survival (361), death (558), and missing (29).

Chart showing locations with most accidents. (Ministry of Interior image)

Drowning accidents occur in streams or rivers 41 percent of the time, while the ocean accounts for 21 percent. Keelung River, Dawulun, and the Longdong caves have all in the past year been the sites of drownings.

Data suggests that drowning accidents, which peak in July, are more likely to occur during the hotter months of May to September when people go swimming. This summer has been Taiwan's hottest on record, according to the Central Weather Bureau.

Taiwan Coast Guards carry out a drill in Hualien. (RTI Photo)

Taiwan is surrounded by the sea, home to numerous bodies of water, and experiences heavy rain throughout the year. These longer periods of rainfall create an excess of water in rivers, ditches, lakes, and ponds, resulting in a higher risk for incidents.

An increase in drowning accidents underlines the need for more rescuers. In response to the uptick, the Fire Department and the Hsinchu County Water Rescue Association have established a volunteer rescue team.

Thes volunteers receive 38 hours of professional training in a variety of water environments. Their curriculum covers information on the tides and coastline, lifeboat maintenance, how to cross a river, and efficient ways to rescue a victim.

Ministry of the Interior graph showing rise in water-related accidents between 2015 and 2019: