Twenty-one people have drowned in Sweden so far this month, officials say, as persistent high temperatures send boaters and swimmers flocking to the nation’s coast and to its many lakes.
The number — based on preliminary figures from the Swedish Life Saving Society that compare to a total of 17 drownings for all of July last year — has shocked this Scandinavian country.
More than half the deaths occurred in the past three days, with six of them over a seven-hour period on Monday alone, as the mercury across much of Sweden hovered around 30 degrees Celsius (86 degrees Fahrenheit).
“When it gets this, hot people head for the water,” Karin Brand of the Swedish Life Saving Society told AFP.
“The fact that the water itself has been so warm in recent days has also contributed to people staying in longer,” she said.
“The main problem is that many people overestimate their own abilities to swim and stay afloat.”
The drownings have prompted the agency to demand that schools fulfill a new government requirement for all 11-year-olds to be able to swim 200 metres (656 feet) in one stretch.
“We’re far from achieving this goal today,” Brand said, adding it is “extremely dangerous for children and adults who do not know how to swim properly or how to act sensibly around water”.