From: Exit Staff
11 Die on Albania’s Beaches, Protests Start at Tourism Ministry Over Lack of Lifeguards

An 18-year-old man lost his life in Durres yesterday while attempting to rescue his 15-year-old brother and his friend from drowning, bringing this summer season’s death toll to 11.

While the other two survived, Anri Kashniku drowned, and his body was retrieved later by the authorities.

Various political figures, including outgoing President Ilir Meta and leader of opposition Sali Berisha, expressed their condolences and called the boy a hero.

“I have the deepest gratitude and respect for this extraordinary man who with his sublime sacrifice saved two lives today to be immortalized in our memory as a symbol of selflessness, love for life and the highest human values,”  said Meta.

Two Drowned within a Week, No Lifeguards on Beaches

In the summer of 2021, at least four people drowned while swimming on the Albanian coast. In previous years, multiple drownings were recorded throughout the season.

Four Drown in One Week on Albanian Coasts

Most of the country has no lifeguards and a minimal number of supervisors. This has been an issue for several years. In 2014, the National Coastal Agency trained 41 sports students as certified lifeguards, but they were never deployed.

As per a Council of Minister’s decision, every entity that has permission to use a beach area must provide a lifeguard and watchtower, which is not enforced.

Robert Necaj, the deputy president of the Albanian Federation of Beach and Rescue Water Watchers, said if there had been lifeguards, the death would not have happened.

“In cases where the beaches are opened without a supervisor, it is the direct responsibility of the relevant state authorities,” he said, citing the Ministry of Tourism and the relevant municipalities.

He said the danger from the sea is constant, and many are unaware of the risks.

“I emphasize, the watchman is the competent person to tell you ‘go in or don’t go into the sea’, even in cases where you go in, he will explain how to go in so that you can go in with the parent, with protective equipment,” the instructor underlined.

Leneda Kamberaj, a licensed trainer of lifeguards, told Euronews that 19 lifeguards were trained in 2022, but all were beach owners and not people who would work exclusively as a lifeguard.

“The owners of the beach are looking for people to train them so they can pay for the training, and the lifeguards decide what salary they want, but there are no interested people. Another reason is that beach owners don’t want to pay extra to get one more employee and do the training themselves, but it’s not like these owners stay at the lookout point and perform the role of beach watcher, they just get it to get a beach permit, and that’s it,” she explained.

A protest is underway outside the Ministry of Tourism over the death toll and the lack of responsibility from the ministry. Among the dead are four children.

The protest, organized by Nisma Thurje, demands the removal of licenses for entities with beaches that do not have lifeguards or the removal of tourism minister Mirela Kumbaro.