THE WATER Development Department is looking at strengthening  safety measures at a Paphos canal following the drowning of a 13-year-old boy in the waterway on Saturday.

Safety measures were bolstered in 2007 after a Syrian man and his two children drowned in the same spot almost to the date, when the children, aged seven and nine, slipped and fell into the canal and he jumped in to save them.

The canal, which connects the two villages of Achelia and Yeroskipou, is two metres deep and 12km long. Since it was constructed in the early eighties, two schools have been built close by.

After the deaths of the father and his children, the authorities put up a high fence along the banks of the canal, with a number of warning signs.

But on Saturday the13-year-old Bulgarian boy was trying to retrieve a ball from the canal when he slipped and fell into the water. He remained underwater for 30 minutes before being pulled out.

He had been playing in the area near the Yiannakis Taliotis Lyceum.

Water Development director Dr Kyriacos Kyrou said: “After the death of the Syrian man and his children about three years ago, we installed fencing around the parts of the canal which run through residential areas, and we thought that was a sufficient measure and a deterrent.”

Kyrou said the fence was 1.8 metres. Warning signs that entry was prohibited clearly stated the dangers, he said.

“There is nowhere for people to enter the canal in built up areas, unless they climb over it,” he said. “Unfortunately that seems to be what happened in this case. The boy who drowned was trying to retrieve a football.”

According to Kyrou, the fundamental problem lies with the canal’s design which was undertaken by a French company in 1980.

He said: “The problem is the shape of the canal. There are inclining slopes on either side, which are very slippery. The canal is about  seven or eight metres wide at the top, and the width narrows down to the bottom.”

Environment Commissioner, Charalambous Theopemptou said he was surprised that someone else had drowned in the canal. He said he knew some safety measures had been taken since the 2007 deaths of the Syrian man and his children.

 “But from what I remember, the sides of the canal are slippery and there isn’t anything to grab hold of in order to pull themselves out of the water,” he said.

The Commissioner said that as long as it was possible for someone to fall into the canal, there must be ways provided for people to get out.

This could be accomplished in a number of ways, he said, such as by providing overhead bars for people to grab, creating places to climb out of the canal or by installing intermittent barriers which would prevent victims from being swept away by the current.

“Alternatively, the water could be covered by a metal cover, but I think the easiest way would be to provide ways to climb out,” he said.

Kyrou said the water department had previously considered ‘get out’ options but he said it was thought that this would be akin to encouraging people to go into the water.

“And to close the canal, even with a metal mesh instead of concrete would be very expensive” he said. These are difficult financial times and it would cost millions to do this kind of work.”

He said part of the problem was the building of two schools nearby.

“Kids will always find a way…there are no easy answers,” he added.

“I am very sorry about the boy's death, it’s a great shame, but we were under the impression that we had done whatever we could to warn people not to enter the canal. But we are currently examining further ways to stop people from going in.”

Kyrou said people must take the warning signs seriously that the canal is dangerous.

“It’s like having a balcony at home and knowing that if you go over it you will die,” he said.


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