Weak ice situation has led to more drownings than for many years
Colder Easter weather in prospect may further increase the dangers
As a consequence of the poor ice situation brought by this year's mild winter, an exceptionally large number of people fell through the weak ice and drowned in the early months of 2008.
Scientist Jouni Vainio from the Finnish Institute of Marine Research (FIMR) warns people who intend to go to their cottages over the ice that even though the ice appears to be thicker it should not be trusted.
"The ice can be thick enough on the shore, but farther out it will not carry a person’s weight", Vainio cautioned.
The number of drownings due to the weak ice situation is higher than ever before at the same time of the year since the beginning of the millennium.
According to the statistics gathered by the Finnish Association for Swimming Instruction and Life Saving (SUH), the number of people who fell through the weak ice and drowned in January through February was 18.
The Finnish Meteorological Institute has predicted around 1-2 °C colder than average weather for Easter, which could actually increase the risks for those moving on the ice, giving a false sense of security.
Even last winter was mild, with treacherously weak spring ice, and the number of drownings was unusually high. Prior to last Easter, a total of 12 persons drowned in just one and a half weeks - more than last Midsummer.
A total of 14 of those persons who drowned in January through February this year were middle-aged men who had gone fishing on the ice of familiar lakes, reported Janne Ollikainen from SUH.
”They should have known better as they had experience, but apparently the urge to go ice-fishing is too strong”, noted Ollikainen.
On Monday afternoon, there were no fishermen on the ice of the Tuusulanjärvi lake, while "polar bear" swimmers were enjoying the large unfrozen area in the lake, which was barely covered with a thin and broken layer of ice.
However, some people are not overly pleased about the lack of ice, saying that they would like to go for a walk on the ice in the winter.
Previously in HS International Edition:
Ice road across Lake Pielinen opens - several weeks late (8.2.2008)
The Finnish Association for Swimming Instruction and Life Saving (SUH)
Finnish Meteorological Institute
Finnish Institute of Marine Research (FIMR)