Surfers dead in ‘foam avalanche’ tragedy
Five experienced surfers drowned after going out for a session in stormy weather that whipped up thick sea foam off a popular Dutch beach, officials said Tuesday.
Dutch authorities said a group of six surfers jumped into the sea late Monday at Scheveningen, a suburb of The Hague on the North Sea, and were later reported missing.
"When a group of people went surfing early in the evening, no one expected that some would not come home," The Hague Mayor Johan Remkes said in a statement.
The Dutch Coast Guard said three people were rescued on Tuesday (AEST), two of whom were later pronounced dead.
Two additional bodies were found Tuesday morning, while a fifth body was seen floating in the waters as it was drifting out of reach.
One person still remains unaccounted for.
Officials said Tuesday the group likely couldn't deal with the combination of heavy weather, northerly winds and swells that hit the Dutch coast.
An additional problem was an excessively thick layer of sea foam that drifted on the North Sea waters by the beaches.
Officials and witnesses told Agence France-Presse the conditions created "avalanche-like" sea foam along the coast.
The sea foam was reported to be so thick that it was especially difficult to get back on their boards to return to shore if they fell off, surfers told the Algemeen Nederlands Persbureau news agency.
Remkes said it was still too early to exactly say what caused the tragedy, especially since the surfers had plenty of experience to assess the dangers of the waters.
The Hague's "alternative mayor" Pat Smith told Den Haag FM radio station that two of the surfers were internationally trained lifeguards that had worked in Australia.
Werkomstandigheden hulpdiensten dinsdagochtend strand Scheveningen pic.twitter.com/7F2glPuL3l— Dick Teske (@DTpersfoto) May 12, 2020
"They were busy training," he said Tuesday. "They then disappeared under the foam like it was some sort of avalanche."
The age of the victims was between 22 and 38 and they all lived nearby.
Residents in Scheveningen have already begun mourning the surfers, laying wreaths in seaside areas, according to The New York Times.
A photographer at the scene told magicseaweed.com the local surfing community has paid respect to the dead by staying out of the water.
"Six experienced watermen went swimming with suits and fins, but three of them couldn't fight the current and got dragged under the foam, they didn't make it out," the photographer said.
"And two experienced surfers didn't make it out either. Huge drama, the surf community is in total shock and disbelief," one photographer told MSW this morning.
"The community is hurt, no one dares to go near the water with a board this morning, even though the swell is on."
According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, sea foam forms when the organic and artificial matter in the ocean is agitated by wind and waves.
- with AFP
Originally published as Surfers dead in 'foam avalanche' tragedy