BATHERS at both Tyrico Bay and Maracas Beach are being advised that should they get into difficulty while swimming, there will be no lifeguards there to rescue you.
In a media release issued yesterday, the National Security Ministry said: “The Ministry of National Security wishes to advise the general public and in particular beach goers to exercise caution at Maracas Beach and Tyrico Bay, as Lifeguard Services are not available over the weekend due to ongoing emergency repairs and maintenance at those facilities.”
On June 9, Penal resident Raj Sonnylal drowned at Maracas Beach after lifeguards stayed away from work in protest against health and safety issues including dead rats and bat droppings in the building, malfunctioning toilets, faulty water pumps and no air conditioning.
National Security Minister Stuart Young on Thursday met with the lifeguards to discuss the improvement of the facility. In the past weeks remedial work was done on the facility and at Thursday’s meeting the lifeguards were told that there are plans for upgrades to the facility, starting in July, for two months.
Speaking with Sunday Newsday yesterday, senior life guard Augustus Sylvester said the issues facing the life guards were raised for months but only after they stayed away from the job and Sonnylal died that they received any response from the State.
Sylvester said the on a weekend, ten lifeguards were on duty and that had to be shared between both beaches, with the head office at Maracas Bay. He said, at Tyrico, there was only a tower so lifeguards could not work there without a functioning base at Maracas as lifeguards on duty at Tyrico were sustained through the Maracas facility.
The upgrade of the Maracas Beach facility cost some $120 million.
The Maracas Beach Redesign and Restoration Project actually began more than a decade ago, when in 2009, the Cabinet of then prime minister Patrick Manning allocated $233 million towards it. In 2015 then prime minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar said the budget for the overall project had been reduced to $120 million.
“Lifeguards get nightmares because of the job and we have been calling for counselling but we are not getting any. There is only counselling for the relatives of those who died.” Sylvester said.
He added that the issues facing the lifeguards were more than the physical building being flooded with sewerage and the problems were systemic. He said he hoped they would be resolved along with the faulty plumbing.