Rescuers had to lock themselves in the tower: surprise on Blaarmeersen leads to problems (Ghent)

It was the hottest June 18 ever, and it was no different in the Blaarmeersen. Not only did the temperatures rise high, but the mood also became heated at times. A huge number of people had come to the swimming pond on Saturday. Shortly after noon it was already queuing to get in. The beach zone became increasingly crowded, until problems arose in the afternoon.

“Today it has completely escalated again,” said Peter Wieme of the ACV trade union. “At one point, the safety of the staff was at risk. The rescuers had to lock themselves in the tower because visitors had turned against them.”

The big slide was actually out of order… — © David Van Hecke

© David Van Hecke

The big slide has remained closed until now due to a lack of enough rescuers to keep an eye on it. “People have started to take it out on the rescuers, who no longer felt safe and only took the risk of coming down after a while,” says Wieme.

The red flag was raised, but swimmers didn’t care. The large slide was still used very much. Even a carp from the pond was thrown off the slide and into the air. A video of this is doing the rounds on social media.

“It is indeed true that the way of monitoring has been adjusted and shifted to the tower due to the crowds in the water,” says Ive Coene of Farys. “But it is not true that people have turned against the rescuers.

In order to avoid a further influx of visitors, it was communicated at 3.30 pm that access to the beach zone was closed. “For people who still want to leave, we advise against coming to the Blaarmeersen”, the city of Ghent said. “There are currently no additional visitors allowed on the beach.”

Even before 6 pm the gates were opened by the crowds.

Even before 6 pm the gates were opened by the crowds. — © dvh

This way everyone could enter through the emergency exits.

This way everyone could enter through the emergency exits. — © dvh

However, on the site it was decided to open the fences in various places, which are set up around the beach zone to close off the site. This allowed visitors to freely enter and exit what are normally the emergency exits.

“That happened in consultation with the police,” says Coene. “A lot of people were still arriving and the maximum capacity had already been reached. The atmosphere on site itself was friendly, so closing everything was not an ideal decision to prevent the atmosphere outside the fence from getting out of hand.”

© David Van Hecke

© David Van Hecke

Furthermore, according to Coene, the day passed without significant incidents. “There were some riots like everywhere where there is a lot of people, but nothing serious or disproportionate. The functioning of Saturday will be evaluated.”

In the coming days, Farys will examine with city and police services and aldermen of Sport Sofie Bracke (Open VLD) what exactly happened and what measures may need to be taken for the future. “The safety of visitors and staff is always our greatest concern and attention,” says Bracke.

“The measures that have been taken are clearly not sufficient”, responds Peter Wieme. “It must remain safe for visitors and staff. If lifeguards have to focus more on what’s going on behind them, they won’t be able to do their job of keeping children safe in the water.”

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