The summer beach protection operation was launched yesterday. The Balearic government, which is spending nearly half a million euros on Balearic bay watch this year, signed an agreement with 20 participating councils yesterday in the presence of President Francesc Antich and the Balearic Minister for Tourism, Celesti Alomar. The government's beach safety programme was first launched two years ago as a pilot scheme in Formentera. The operation proved highly successful and led to a reduction in the number of accidents and drownings. Last year, the operation was extended to involve nine councils and this year, two coastal councils have signed up for the beach safety programme. The Balearics has 1.341 kilometres of coastline, 995.5 kilometres of which are cliffs with the islands' 278 beaches occupying 100'6 kilometres, most of which has to be patrolled by the coast guard and life savers during the summer season. The principal aim of the operation is to reduce the number of accidents. The two key factors are information and prevention with the 112 emergency service co-ordinating the operation. Each of the participating councils will receive posters and information leaflets and operate the three-flag warning system (green, yellow or red depending on sea conditions) on all public beaches. All public beaches will have first aid and rescue teams on hand and the government, in accordance with yesterday's agreement, will provide the necessary equipment and manpower. In black spots and isolated high risk areas, SOS call boxes will be installed with a direct link to the 112 emergency service, which in turn is in immediate contact with all of the emergency services and the police. Yesterday the cabinet in Madrid approved an emergency repair operation to make sure that all the Balearics' beaches damaged by last winter's storms are back to normal as quickly as possible. Initially the local authorities were set a May 1 deadline by the Environment Minister Jaume Matas, but beach repair and regeneration work is dragging on. Central government has made an extra 12.014.00 euros available to the Balearics, Valencia and Cataluña to help fund one last push to complete the beach repair project. Majorca will receive a third of the total funding and Madrid hopes that by the time the summer season reaches its peak, all of the beaches will be in an acceptable condition.

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