Two Chinese nationals vacationing on two different resorts in the Maldives have been found dead within 48 hours in suspected snorkeling accidents, raising this month’s tourist death toll to three.
A Chinese woman identified as Shuhui Li, aged 58, was pronounced dead after she was pulled out from the waters of Lily Beach resort on Thursday afternoon, while a Chinese man identified as Ding Hai, aged 30, was found dead whilst snorkeling at the newly-opened Ayada resort the following afternoon.
Confirming both incidents, Police Sub-Inspector Hassan Haneef said the two reportedly drowned while snorkeling and police are conducting an investigation into both incidents.
He noted that the body of the Chinese man has been moved to the Male’ mortuary inside the Galolhu district cemetery, while the woman’s body was sent to China on Friday through “formal channels” after the police finished examining it.
Lily Beach’s Front Office Manager Yuri Chang told Minivan News that the woman was vacationing with her family on the resort.
“She was snorkelling and we found that she was not moving any more. So we got her out of the water and found her heart had stopped,” Chang said. She was pulled out of the water by her son-in-law and a resort staff member, she added.
Public Relations Manager for Ayada, Ramesha Samarasinghe, said the resort “regrets to confirm the tragic demise of one of its in house guests.”
“After preliminary investigations, it is believed that the extreme surface currents coupled with high winds led to the accident that occurred within the lagoon last evening. The victim was reported to have been snorkeling without a life jacket within the western lagoon, when he became distressed,” Samarasinghe said. “The victim’s wife raised the alarm and sought the help of resort staff who responded by jumping into the lagoon to aid other nearby swimmers to pull the victim out of the water. Immediately, the medical team on site began CPR whilst arrangements were made to transport the guest to a local hospital.
“The victim was rushed by speedboat to the closest medical facility in Gaddhoo with the resorts medical staff continuing their efforts to resuscitate him en route. However all our efforts failed to save the life of the deceased,” Samarasinghe said.
The resort’s management “extends their deepest condolences to the family and friends of the deceased. The management is conducting a thorough investigation into this incident with the help of the local authorities. All efforts have been made to transport the wife and the victim back to their home country as quickly as possible.”
The first tourist found dead this year was 49 year-old French national Alan Marshall, who went missing from Club Med resort while swimming and was later found dead near Paradise Island resort on January 8.
Chinese fatalities rise
Tourist deaths – usually while snorkeling – are disproportionately higher among Chinese tourists, which now account for a majority of Maldives tourist arrivals, compared to the traditional European market.
Mohamed Ibrahim ‘Sim’ from the Maldives Association of Tourism Industry (MATI) pointed out in an earlier interview with Minivan News that Chinese guests in particular needed to be made more aware of the dangers of snorkeling in the Maldives, “because it is a totally different environment than what they are used to.”
“While UK tour operators passed on advice and information to tourists, China was a relatively new market and the operators need to be made aware also,” Sim said in September 2010, following the death of a 48-year old Chinese woman who had been snorkeling at Paradise Island Resort and Spa. She was the sixth Chinese tourist to die that year.
In mid-August 2010 a Chinese couple vacationing in the Maldives disappeared from their resort after going for a swim.
The 38 year-old woman and 40 year-old man were staying with their 13 year-old daughter on the Hilton Irufushi Beach and Spa Resort in Noonu Atoll.
On March 14, police received a report that a Chinese national, Rui Dai, died while snorkeling at Holiday Inn Kandooma Resort, South Malé Atoll.
Earlier that same month another Chinese man died while snorkeling at Chaaya Lagoon Hakurahura Island Resort, less than a day after a German tourist died in a snorkeling accident at Embudu Village Island Resort.
A 36 year-old Chinese tourist was also found dead off the coast of Sun Island Resort and Spa in January 2011.
Many resorts and Chinese tour operators have reacted to the higher incidence of casualties by issuing life-jackets to Chinese guests on arrival. However, despite efforts to adapt to a market which in 2011 brought over 100,000 visitors to resort beaches and house reefs, Sim observed that “things still have not changed” as Chinese fatalities remain higher compared to European market.
“I do not think it’s going to change until the Chinese tour operators are able to educate the tourists visiting Maldives. They are not aware of the physical conditions here. Sometimes the [sea] currents are too high, and the Chinese are not aware of it”, he added.
Sim explained that it is difficult to monitor each tourist’s activity once they arrive on the resort. Therefore, he suggested that the best measure would be to ensure the tourists are educated about the local conditions prior to their arrival.
“We must set up guidelines for what tourists need to be educated about before coming to Maldives, and implement a way to monitor it”, Sim said. “Because once they arrive it is difficult to monitor each tourist or couple’s activities on a resort, and they would not like that either, because they want the privacy.”
Sim noted that the return visitors will be familiar with the Maldivian environment, while a rise in Mandarin-speaking resort staff will help bring down the fatality rate.
“I think in the long term the situation will work out,” Sim said.