- Associated Press - Wednesday, September 9, 2020

NARRAGANSETT, R.I. (AP) - Swimmers will go into the ocean at their own risk off Rhode Island after two beachgoers were stung by something and a Portuguese man-of-war was recovered from the water.

Purple flags will be flown at state beaches to warn swimmers of the dangers this weekend, The Providence Journal reported.

Scarborough State Beach, where the swimmers were stung and the jellyfish-like creature was found, was closed to swimmers Monday at 5 p.m.

The man-of-war is a species of siphonophore that has tentacles that average 30 feet long but can extend to 100 feet, scientists say. Their stings rarely kill people but are very painful.

Their calling card is a balloon-like float that can be blue, purple or pink and rises above the waterline.

“If swimmers see something that looks like a balloon floating on top of the water, they should stay far away,” said Jason McNamee, a deputy in the Rhode Island environmental department.

Scientists did not find any men-of-war during a survey of coastal waters in late August. But several had been reported in Nantucket Harbor and near Smith’s Point and Madaket Harbor, and Massachusetts warned swimmers Friday of sightings off Horseneck Beach in Westport.

Their tentacles can still offer up a sting even weeks after washing ashore, scientists say.

And “if the water is rough, the tentacles can break apart and they can continue to sting even while unattached,” McNamee said. “The sting is very painful and can leave scars on people with more sensitive skin.”

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