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MONSERRATE Carrió, regional director for Accident Prevention Services, confirmed yesterday that the Red Cross gave first aid assistance to a total of 13'204 people on Balearic beaches during 2003. Of this total, 11'964 cases consisted of treatment for minor ailments, whilst 1'240 were rescue operations involving giving assistance to people in distress in the water. During the course of last year, the Red Cross provided a service on 49 different beaches in the Balearics, with a staffing level including 302 lifeguards both professional and voluntary, who gave aid to 22'603 bathers for reasons as varied as requests for information or notification of accident. The director specified that documenting the number of deaths recorded off Balearic beaches for the whole year, is a figure difficult to quantify because of the diversity of circumstances. As a result, reports are limited only to the registration of deaths by drowning during periods when the Red Cross Lifeguard service was in operation. Within this framework, the death toll stood at 4 in 2003. Separately, Carrió reported that the Red Cross had been actively cooperating with the introduction of an updated regional by-law, currently being developed by the Balearic government. The new ruling will categorise beaches according to the level of danger they might pose to bathers. This most recent statute, explained the director, will create a “chain of responsibility”, beginning at the top and passing down to local councils. According to law, the councils are empowered to regulate beach activity in the interests of users and take any measures they deem necessary to ensure safety. In turn, this chain will trigger a greater involvement by the Red Cross in terms of their lifeguard and first aid contribution. Town Councils will award the Red Cross the responsibility of ensuring beach users abide by safety rulings and will arrange to have the Red Cross appropriately equipped for the job. The director explained that the new statutes will fill a current legal loophole, because present by-laws only relate to an Order dating from 1972. The old statutes cover some basic aspects of beach safety, explained Carrió, “but they are now obsolete”.