7 students drown near beach resort in southern Vietnam

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The mother of Nguyen Phan Thanh Lam, one of the seven students who drowned off the coast of HCMC's rural Can Gio District on December 29, mourns her son's death / PHOTO: CONG NGUYEN

Seven students aged between 13 and 15 drowned in the ocean while swimming at a beach resort in Ho Chi Minh City on Sunday, an accident believed to have been caused by rough seas.

The students were on a camping trip in Can Gio District, about 50 kilometers from the city's center, organized by their school Nguyen Binh Khiem High School in the southern province of Binh Duong.

Ninety-six students kin sixth through ninth grades along with 19 teachers were on the trip, according to initial reports.

After having lunch at the Phi Lao I resort area, a group of students began swimming off the 30.4 beach.

A moment later, some students rushed to inform their resting teachers that other students had been swept away by the tides.

Teachers and local security guards rushed to the sea to rescue them, but all the students one seventh-grader, three eighth-graders, and three ninth-graders were missing.

Their bodies were all retrieved and identified as of Monday morning.

A member of the rescue team told Thanh Nien on condition of anonymity that the accident happened when the sea was rough and the tide was going out, possibly sweeping away the students.

In the meantime, an unnamed teacher told Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper that the sea became rough "suddenly" when the students were bathing, adding that most of them could swim.

He also said that when some students rushed to the beach asking for help, no rescue boats were available immediately. It was not until a moment later that some people dragged a boat out into the water and started finding the victims, he said.

Official figures show that more than 6,000 children drown every year in Vietnam, and the number is increasing each year.

According to the Ministry of Labor, War Invalids and Social Affairs, the number of child drowning deaths in Vietnam is 10 times higher than in other developing countries.

The country has 3,260 kilometers of coast and innumerable rivers and canals, but the government has been long criticized for failing to enable schools to include swimming as part of the standard curriculum.

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