Five Surfers Drown In Sea Foam 'Avalanche'
A local community in the Dutch city of The Hague is has been devastated by the deaths of five experienced surfers, who drowned in rough seas after stormy weather triggered a thick layer of sea foam on the water.
Rescue teams worked through the night after the men got into trouble off Scheveningen beach on Monday afternoon. It's understood a number of other surfers and swimmers were also in the water at the time.
It's believed the men were overcome by the rough waters after the wind changed direction and up to a metre of foam formed on top of the waves.
Rescuers recovered two of the victims on Monday, but could not resuscitate either of them.
Two more bodies were found on Tuesday morning. The body of the fifth victim was located in the water but could not be retrieved, authorities said.
“They disappeared under the foam like it was some sort of avalanche,” said Pat Smith, The Hague’s night mayor.
The tragedy has rattled the local community where it's understood the men were well-known.
They have been described by the city's mayor Johan Remkes as "fit, young sporty people who know the water there like the back of their hands".
People here understand better than anybody else that ‘the sea gives and the sea takes’, but the way in which so many young lives ended abruptly and so many families and groups of friends have been affected is incredibly brutal.
Remkes said there would be a full investigation into what led to the tragedy including how the experienced surfers could have been "completely taken by surprise at a spot they knew so well" and how at another harbour inlet just 100 metres from where the incident unfolded, others could continue surfing late into the evening.
"Today we remember the victims. Tomorrow we will start trying to understand what happened," Remkes said.
"I know that you have a hundred questions. We have the same questions. You can now ask your hundred questions a hundred times and I will tell you a hundred times, we are going to investigate this. But this will not bring our victims back."
At Scheveningen on Tuesday, people gathered at the scene of the tragedy.
Flowers were also seen outside a local surf school in tribute to the victims, some were reportedly instructors and lifeguards.
The victims have not been publicly identified by authorities, however, they are understood to be locals aged between 22 and 38.
A local sports club said it was "a black day in the history of Scheveningen".
"Hopefully we will not forget our fellow water athletes and the dangers of the sea tomorrow," Jumpteam Scheveningen said.
Flags have reportedly been flown at half-mast at surfing clubs across the country.
In a statement, the Holland Surfing Association said the five men were "great lovers of water sports and the sea".
"They were robbed due to the exceptional circumstances and fate has struck," it said.
"We express our sympathy to the relatives and everyone involved. In the surf community in Scheveningen and far beyond there is great defeat, we are in deep mourning for this loss."