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CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa — With many water activities on Okinawa popular throughout winter, the Marine Corps on Friday announced changes to its safety guidelines.

Changes focus on keeping people alive in potentially deadly waters around Okinawa, said Shawn Curtis, a supervisor with Camp Butler’s safety division, on Monday.

Twenty people connected with the military drowned in the waters off Okinawa since 2000, he said.

Eleven occurred between the months of October and April.

"There are more drowning fatalities here than at any other (U.S.) military base in the world," Curtis said.

In November, a Marine drowned while snorkeling off Onna Village with a buddy. The Marine went missing Nov. 9 and his body was recovered Nov. 15.

Changes to the safety guidelines include:

No water-related activities are allowed during sea condition red.No water-related activities are allowed when local conditions close a beach or coastal area.Everyone, regardless of rank, must have a buddy during water-related activities.Surfers must have a tether attached to their board.Scuba divers must be certified, wear safety equipment and follow Marine Corps Bases Japan orders governing diving.At locations without a lifeguard, snorkelers and free divers must wear a snorkeling vest.On personal water craft, users must wear an appropriate life vest with a tethered kill switch cord.The order applies to all Marines, Defense Department civilians, status-of-forces contractors employed or living on a Marine base in Japan and dependents, Marine spokesman 1st Lt. Adrian Rankine-Galloway said in an e-mail to Stars and Stripes.

"It takes less than two minutes for someone to slip beneath the surface and drown," Curtis said. "We want folks to enjoy the water … but to ensure they do so safely and come back alive."


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