Heatwave brings increase in RNLI beach rescues
Soaring temperatures and long spells of sunshine resulted in a 24% increase in incidents for RNLI lifeguards on South West beaches, according to provisional statistics from the charity.
RNLI lifeguards dealt with 10,615 incidents, including rescues from the water, major and minor first aid incidents and missing children.
The South West lifeboat statistics show a fall in rescues of 8% to 652. However, in Devon lifeboats launched 30 times more than last summer, with Plymouth, Appledore, Ilfracombe, Exmouth and Torbay featuring in the top six busiest lifeboat stations in the region.
Andy Hurley, RNLI regional operations manager, said the figures reflected the first decent summer in the South West for seven years.
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“People flocked to the South West when it became evident the weather had taken a turn for the better,” he said.
“The warm temperatures and sunshine attracted huge numbers of people to the region’s most popular beaches, which explains why our lifeguard teams were kept so busy.
“Interestingly, the weather was very calm during this period with little surf or wind and this may explain the slight drop in business for our volunteer lifeboat crews.”
RNLI lifeguards and volunteer lifeboat crews across the South West, which includes Cornwall, Devon, Dorset, Somerset and the Channel Islands, were involved in a number of dramatic rescues this summer.
In June RNLI lifeguards in the South Hams have rescued a windsurfer who was washed into a small inaccessible cove after being caught out by difficult conditions.
In July, the families rescued after writing a message for help in the sand at a cove in North Cornwall, thanked the RNLI volunteers who came to their aid.
The same month, RNLI lifeguards on Porthmeor beach, St Ives, rescued a man and his springer spaniel after their kayak started taking in water and capsized.
In August the Plymouth the all-weather lifeboat and her volunteer crew were called out to the mouth of the River Yealm to a report of a dismasted sailing yacht while the crew of the Appledore all-weather lifeboat battled gale force conditions to assist a yacht with engine failure.
Mr Hurley added: “We have three appeals at St Ives, Exmouth and Ilfracombe to help raise the money needed for the launch and recovery vehicles that will be used in conjunction with the new Shannon class lifeboat due from next year onwards.
“We are also busy raising funds for a proposed new boathouse at Swanage in Dorset and in the Bristol Channel area an appeal is being run to support developments at Weston-super-Mare and Portishead, where we are working towards the adoption of the local lifeboat station.
“I’d like to pay tribute to all those volunteer fundraisers who have spent the summer bringing in the funds we need to keep our charity afloat and to all the families and employers of our lifeboat volunteers who support our work, even through busy times like the summer when crew can disappear at a moment’s notice to help save lives at sea.
“For the RNLI lifeguards this has been a particularly busy summer because of the superb weather and I’d like to thank them for their continued professionalism in keeping the beaches safe even when there have been many thousands of visitors on the sands and in the water.”