They might not make headlines like bushfires, floods, cyclones and sharks, but a study shows rip currents kill more people in Australia than all those threats combined.
Top rip expert Rob Brander led a team of scientists from the University of NSW to analyse deaths from natural disasters and shark attacks based on records dating as far back as 1852.
They compared this with data from Australia’s National Coronial Information System, which showed there were an average 21 confirmed deaths involving rips per year between 2004 and 2011.
Dr Brander says the average yearly death toll from bushfires, floods, cyclones and shark attacks paled in comparison, with 5.9, 4.3, 7.5 and one respectively.
“Rips account for greater overall loss of human life than other high profile natural hazards,” Dr Brander said.
“Yet they do not get anywhere near as much attention and dedicated funding.”
The man dubbed “Dr Rip” for his extensive research into the currents said that events like bushfires had the capacity to claim many lives in a single disaster.
“On the other hand, rip currents are almost always present and rarely result in more than one death at a time,” he said.
“But in the end, more people die as a result of them.”
The UNSW study is published in the journal Natural Hazards and Earth Science Systems.