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PM's safety warning amid drownings spike

AAP logoAAP 3/12/2016

More people are drowning off Australia's beaches - and it's prompted the prime minister to call for greater public vigilance.

There's been a 24 per cent increase in coastal deaths with 130 people drowning last year compared to 105 the year before.

The figures from Surf Life Saving Australia's annual report shows that men and boys made up 89 per cent of deaths, with the majority of drownings occurring while swimming or wading at beaches.

Medical conditions or injury were the top reasons for the death toll while rip currents, alcohol and drugs were also contributing factors.

However, the number of drowned tourists is declining, down to 10 per cent from 14 per cent last year.

NSW had the highest number of coastal drownings at 53 while Victoria was second with 22 deaths, a majority due to boating.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull launched the coastal safety report on Sunday morning, pleading for people to remember to swim between the flags.

"Complacency leads to tragedy, that's why we have to be alert all the time," he told the gathering in Sydney's Bondi beach.

"You cannot take anything for granted."

Surf Life Saving said it was saddened by the figures.

"One death is one too many," president Graham Ford said.

COASTAL DROWNING DEATHS:

- Rip currents (14 per cent of deaths), medical conditions or injury (29 per cent), and alcohol/drugs (17 per cent).

- 48 per cent occurred at beaches, 26 per cent offshore; 19 per cent on rocky coastlines.

- 37 per cent occurred at least 5km from a Surf Life Saving Club.

- While 30 per cent occurred during swimming/wading activities, 40 per cent happened during boating, rock fishing and watercraft activities.

- Only 13 per cent of fishers and 51 per cent of boaters said they always wore a lifejacket.

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