HM Coastguard sees highest call-outs in four years as thousands cram beaches

9 August 2020, 11:23

Coastguard and RNLI crews were busy across the UK
Coastguard and RNLI crews were busy across the UK. Picture: PA

By Ewan Somerville

HM Coastguard dealt with a record number of callouts on Saturday as thousands hit beaches to enjoy soaring heatwave temperatures.

Crews across the UK responded to 340 incidents, the highest amount of call-outs in a single day for "well over four years", the Coastguard said.

Coastguard rescue teams attended 221 incidents, while the RNLI and independent lifeboats were deployed to 155 emergencies and helicopters to 30.

Beaches were packed out across the UK as temperatures hit 34.5C, with the heatwave set to continue in southern areas of England on Sunday.

Much of Bournemouth beach was placed on "red alert", meaning social distancing was impossible, with sunseekers flooding sands and car parks by mid-morning.

Bournemouth beach was packed out on Saturday
Bournemouth beach was packed out on Saturday. Picture: PA
Hundreds of sun worshippers returned to Bournemouth this morning
Hundreds of sun worshippers returned to Bournemouth this morning. Picture: PA

The Coastguard said it responded to 186 calls to 999 on Saturday and co-ordinated search and rescue responses to a wide-range of incidents, which included people being cut off by the tide and children swept out to sea on inflatables.

In total, 146 people were rescued and a further 371 were assisted.

Thanet District Council said Ramsgate Main Sands beach in Kent was "extremely busy", with high tide likely to make social distancing difficult.

Blackpool Police also reported its beaches being busy and it had a "larger than usual" number of children going missing.

In Norfolk, police recovered a body from the water at Bawsey Pits near King's Lynn following reports of a man getting into difficulty in the water.

One rescue saw a grandad jump in the water at Black Rock Sands beach, Gwynedd, North Wales, after a six-year-old boy was blown out to sea on an inflatable swan.

Alerted by the cries of the boy's mother, Sam McKeever, 57, found the child lying face down in the water. A Coastguard rescue helicopter airlifted him to hospital.

Saturday’s rescues are a staggering 145% increase on the average call-outs the Coastguard recorded throughout August 2019.

Southend beach in Essex was short for space on Saturday
Southend beach in Essex was short for space on Saturday. Picture: PA

The previous record for Coastguard callouts was set on 31 July, the hottest day of 2020, seeing 329 incidents.

HM Coastguard deputy head of coastal operations, Richard Hackwell, said: “We have seen a big rise in incident numbers this weekend as more people visit coastal areas and head to the beach. We understand that people want to have fun at the coast and enjoy the heatwave but we urge everyone to respect the sea and take responsibility in helping to ensure the safety of themselves, friends and family.

“We’re heading into a period of more good weather so we want to remind you to check and double check tide times as even the most experienced swimmer or keen watersports enthusiast can get caught out by currents and tides. Plan your day out, always exercise caution and make sure you have a way of contacting us if you get into trouble.”

He added: “As our latest statistics show, we’ll always respond when someone calls 999 and asks for the Coastguard but help us to help you by not making choices which could put yourself and others at risk.

“Every time our frontline teams respond – as they always do and always will – please don't forget that they're also put at risk too. Take extra care at the coast today and over the coming days. We don’t want you to remember your day-out for all the wrong reasons.”

The mercury looks set to reach 35C on Sunday - with Kent, Sussex and parts of London most likely to see the highest temperatures, forecasters say.

Southern and central England is set to enjoy temperatures in the high 20Cs, while cloud and breezes in some places may result in milder weather in the high teens.

It comes as the Met Office warned that "severe thunderstorms" are likely early next week, following the peak of 34.5C on Saturday in Kent and Sussex. Friday was the hottest August day in 17 years, with 36.4C recorded at Heathrow and Kew Gardens.