One person is dead and two are still missing at sea after a group of five Buddhist nuns ignored warning flags to go swimming at a beach in southern Vietnam’s Ba Ria-Vung Tau Province early on Thursday morning.
An official from the province’s Long Dien District confirmed the casualties to Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper the same day, adding that the two remaining victims had been rescued and are receiving medical assistance.
According to the official, the five nuns had traveled from southern Dong Nai Province to stay at a local monastery in Long Hai Town, Long Dien District before the accident.
On the early morning of Thursday, they went swimming at a beach close to the monastery, despite the fact that warning flags had been erected to ward beachgoers off the dangerous waters.
The beach was empty at the time, and all five nuns soon found themselves struggling in the strong currents.
Rescuers managed to bring three of them ashore, but one later drew her last breath on the hospital bed.
Two other nuns remain missing as of Friday afternoon, as search efforts are challenged by fierce waves and big winds, the official said.
With a coastline of 3,260 kilometers and a massive network of inland waterways, Vietnam experiences an average of between 3,500 and 4,000 drowning deaths annually, according to statistics from the Ministry of Labor, War Invalids and Social Affairs.
Drowning is also the top cause of unnatural deaths among children and teenagers in Vietnam, according to a 2017 Ministry of Health report.
Swimming is only taught as an extra-curricular activity at schools, and the rate of the population who can swim remain low, especially in urban areas.