Swimmers urged to be careful in open water as 17 people die amid UK heatwave

22 July 2021, 20:06 | Updated: 22 July 2021, 20:10

A warning about entering open water has been issued
A warning about entering open water has been issued. Picture: Alamy

By Will Taylor

At least 17 people have died in the water as the UK experienced its hottest period of the year.

People wanting to cool off in the open water have been urged to take care by the Royal Life Saving Society UK (RLSS UK).

It said 17 incidents of accidental loss of life in the water were recorded between July 17 and July 20, and there are a further two reports of people going missing in the water who are yet to be found.

With the exception of one, that happened in Northern Ireland, all incidents took place in England, which reached its hottest temperature of the year on Tuesday.

Heathrow Airport reported 32.2C while Northern Ireland saw a provisional all-time record on Wednesday when temperatures hit 31.3C in County Tyrone.

Read more: Extreme heat sees hailstones the size of golf balls hit UK ahead of '33C' Friday

Lee Heard, RLSS UK's charity director, said: "Whilst we recognise how tempting it is to cool off in the UK's beautiful waterways, they hide hazards that tragically take lives each year and we urge the public to use caution when entering the water, getting acclimatised to the water temperature before jumping in.

"The difference between the air temperature and water temperature can literally take your breath away; this is called cold water shock. It is silent, invisible and deadly.

The heatwave left Brits seeking the beach and rivers
The heatwave left Brits seeking the beach and rivers. Picture: Alamy

"Water can also hide debris, strong currents and sudden changes in depth that can catch out even the strongest swimmers.

"The Royal Life Saving Society UK urge everyone to learn vital skills and knowledge to prevent future accidental drownings."

This weekend is expected to see the end of the heatwave, with heavy rain and thunderstorms forecast.

The Met Office has put out a yellow warning for rain in parts of central and southern England from midnight on Saturday until the end of Sunday, with the potential for flooding and transport disruption. Hail may fall too.

Extreme heat warnings for south-west England and parts of Wales are set to expire on Thursday while Northern Ireland's will last until the end of Friday.

Swimmers have been urged to be careful
Swimmers have been urged to be careful. Picture: Alamy

Stephen Dixon, a spokesperson for the Met Office, said: "Late on Friday, a band of heavy and thundery rain will migrate from the south-west of the country.

"There are yellow weather warnings for rain on Saturday and Sunday for southern areas of the UK."

The Met Office said there is the potential of up to 100mm of rain in some locations over the weekend, such as either side of the Bristol Channel.