Emergency services at Malaga's Agujero reservoir on Sunday / Francis Silva

Experts warn of dangers of swimming in reservoirs after four drown in Malaga province so far in 2022

Poor visibility, mud, ledges and underwater currents make it inadvisable to swim outside the designated areas

Ignacio Lillo / Álvaro Frías
IGNACIO LILLO / ÁLVARO FRÍAS Málaga

A group of friends went swimming in Malaga's Agujero reservoir on Easter Sunday, 17 April. The alarm was raised at 3.15pm, when members of the group called 112; Andalucía’s emergency service number to report the disappearance of a friend. Sadly emergency services recovered the body a few hours later.

Swimming in a reservoir can be dangerous if it is not in specially designated areas and rules are not followed. Poor visibility, mud, unexpected ledges, plants and other objects and underwater currents pose risks for bathers, who are often unaware of the dangers.

A specialist in underwater rescue warns that one of the main dangers in reservoirs is "overconfidence on the part of the bather". "The water is often very calm and looks inviting. Also, distances are deceptive. Very often people try to swim from one side to the other, thinking that it is closer than it really is. They can see the other side so are confident that they can get across and that's when problems arise,” they added.

"When you go out for a swim and you start to feel tired, but you see that you are only half way, your mind panics; you lose strength and become overwhelmed and it is much more difficult to continue." Added to this, buoyancy is lower than in the sea, as the water is fresh rather than salt.

Another unknown risk is that you soon lose your footing as there is a steep ledge. In addition, the water is usually warm up to 50 centimetres from the surface, but very cold currents run underneath, which can cause a temperature shock to the body.

Poor visibility

"There are also submerged trees in which bathers could get stuck and the mud at the bottom can suck you in. "Be careful when jumping because of the danger of getting stuck in a tree, a branch or in the mud," the expert warns.

The main recommendation is to "beware of overconfidence. The best thing to do is to take a buoyancy aid with you if you go swimming. You clip it to your body, so that if there is a dangerous situation you can hold on to it and won't sink."

The head of the Civil Protection service and director of Emergencies 112 in Malaga, Ana Celia González, recalls that in 2019 there were 27 drownings in the province (both in the sea and in rivers and reservoirs); in 2020 there were 19 and in 2021, a total of 21. So far in 2022, four people have died from drowning. González explains that recklessness is behind many of these cases, because swimmers venture out to swim in places they do not know.

Never go alone

In the event of an accident, the advice is to remain calm and immediately call 112, which is the quickest and most effective response. González also makes several recommendations for self-protection: if you have recently eaten or if you are tired or feel unwell, you should avoid swimming. But in any case, do not stray far from the shore.

Never go alone and stick to supervised areas with life-saving devices. It is imperative to read and respect the signs, as there are areas where bathing is expressly forbidden because it’s dangerous. González adds that it is important to get out of the water immediately if you feel unwell, especially if you are shivering. A dangerous combination she says is "when it is very hot and the person feels tired. We must be attentive to the body's signals.”