Two men have become the latest drowning victims in Victoria, as authorities appeal for people to stay safe in the water ahead of the Australia Day public holiday.
The deaths came in separate incidents southwest of Melbourne, including one where a small boat overturned.
Two men were on the water at Anglesea on Saturday afternoon when their boat tipped and sent them both overboard.
One made it back to shore but the other, a 58-year-old, died at the scene.
The other drowning involved a man pulled from Thirteenth Beach at Barwon Heads, near Geelong, on Saturday afternoon.
He had been swimming with a boy and a girl who were helped back to shore, but the man died despite paramedics’ efforts to save him.
Since July 1, Victoria has had a record 42 drowning deaths, whereas the previous 12-month total was 34.
Victoria’s Emergency Management Commissioner Andrew Crisp urged people to learn from the tragedies which have taken sons, daughters, fathers and mothers.
“We’ve got a lot of summer to go,” he told reporters on Sunday.
“Do you want there to be an empty seat at your table?”
Mr Crisp said Victorians generally were not as fit as they were 12 months ago, with the lockdown curtailing children’s swimming lessons and water activities.
“It’s so important that we understand our limitations,” he said.
He reminded the public they have a role to play in keeping safe in the water, with only 67 of the state’s 700 beaches patrolled.
With the lure of the water strong as a heatwave sets in across southeast Australia, Victoria’s Emergency Services Minister Lisa Neville urged the community to be vigilant.
“Drownings are preventable, and one is one too many,” she tweeted.
Even for those not intending to swim, Mr Crisp highlighted the dangers of the water by citing the deaths of three people who drowned in NSW on Friday night after being swept into the surf at Port Kembla, south of Wollongong.
A similar case unfolded on January 13 when four people were swept off rocks at Victoria’s Bushrangers Bay near Cape Schanck. A woman died but three other people were saved.
Ahead of Australia Day, Surf Life Saving Australia has implored beachgoers to swim between the flags and prioritise safe swimming.
They said drownings are 2.4 times more likely to occur on public holidays, and young men are almost twice as likely to drown on a public holiday.
Life jackets should also be worn at all times while out on boats.