Major incident declared after thousands flocked to Bournemouth beaches

25 June 2020, 14:50

Nick Hardinges

By Nick Hardinges

A major incident was declared at beaches on the south coast of England as services struggled to cope on the hottest day of the year so far.

Thousands of people turned up to beaches in Bournemouth for a second day with temperatures soaring to 33.3C.

Officials were forced to declare a major incident as services struggled to manage the crowds of people.

There have been reports of fights breaking out and authorities are struggling to cope with tonnes of litter that has been left behind.

Bournemouth East MP Tobias Ellwood told LBC that people on the packed beaches are "selfish" and that the emergency services are entirely overstretched.

He said he "would hate" to see Bournemouth as a catalyst for a second pandemic peak.

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Royal Bournemouth and Poole Hospitals have both declared a "major incident standby" because of the crowds.

A spokesman said: "A multi-agency major incident standby has been declared due to the impact of extremely crowded beaches, traffic gridlock on roads around Bournemouth and Poole, the number of incidents of public disorder and risks from fire and to public health.

"Please be assured that both hospitals are working closely with multi-agency partners, including BCP Council, police, fire and South West Ambulance Service to co-ordinate resources across the area to tackle these issues.

"Please stay hydrated and prepare for severe traffic on the roads."

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Professor Chris Whitty, the chief medical officer for England, took to social media to remind people to adhere to social distancing measures.

"COVID-19 has gone down due to the efforts of everyone but is still in general circulation," he wrote.

"If we do not follow social distancing guidance then cases will rise again. Naturally people will want to enjoy the sun but we need to do so in a way that is safe for all."

Extra police patrols have been brought in at Bournemouth beach and security is in place to protect refuse crews who the council said faced "widespread abuse and intimidation" as they emptied overflowing bins.

Thirty-three tonnes of waste was cleaned up along the full stretch of coastline on Thursday morning, in addition to eight tonnes collected between the piers on Wednesday, the council said.

It issued 558 parking enforcement fines, a record number, and said extra parking enforcement is now in place.

There have been several deaths across the UK in recent days after people tried cooling off in open waters amid the sweltering weather, including that of a boy aged 10 who got into difficulty while swimming in a loch.

Meanwhile, a body was found following a search for a missing man at Lulle Brook in Cookham, Berkshire.

A cousin explained that Syrian refugee Eyad Al Ryabi had gone into the water on Tuesday evening to try to help his friend who was taken to hospital and survived, Thames Valley Police said.

The National Fire Chiefs Council (NFCC) tweeted: "Although the weather is hot, the water is not. Cold water shock can take your breath away please do not be tempted to cool off in open water and #BeWaterAware."

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Crowds on Bournemouth beach have caused concern among locals
Crowds on Bournemouth beach have caused concern among locals. Picture: PA
An ambulance crew member looking out over Bournemouth beach
An ambulance crew member looking out over Bournemouth beach. Picture: PA

Police told people to stay away from Bournemouth beach and other Dorset beaches, followed by the council declaring the major incident.

Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole Council Leader Vikki Slade said: “We are absolutely appalled at the scenes witnessed on our beaches, particularly at Bournemouth and Sandbanks, in the last 24-48 hours.

"The irresponsible behaviour and actions of so many people is just shocking and our services are stretched to the absolute hilt trying to keep everyone safe.

"We have had no choice now but to declare a major incident and initiate an emergency response.”

The whole of Bournemouth beach was teeming with people
The whole of Bournemouth beach was teeming with people. Picture: PA
The packed sands of Bournemouth beach today
The packed sands of Bournemouth beach today. Picture: PA

Other beaches on the south coast were similarly swamped, with thousands also turning up at Brighton beach. Elsewhere people were seen flocking to parks in central London to make the most of the sunshine.

Assistant Chief Constable Sam de Reya, of Dorset Police, said: "These are unprecedented times and we are urging people to stay away from the area of Bournemouth Beach and other Dorset beaches.

"The declaration of a major incident allows us to bring agencies together so we can take actions available to us to safeguard the public as much as possible."

He urged people to take personal responsibility and "think twice" before coming to the area.

In a separate incident on Worthing beach, a woman, believed to be in her 50s has died after a "medical episode", according to Sussex Police.

Ambulance staff confirmed they attended a "serious incident" on the West Sussex beach.

A spokesman said: "Sadly despite the efforts of everyone at the scene a woman has sadly died at the scene."

People have also been warned to stay hydrated while out and about in the hot conditions, with sunseekers flocking to beaches in huge numbers in recent days, despite social distancing measures still being in place.

An amber level three heat-health alert, issued by the Met Office, was extended on Thursday to take in Yorkshire and the east and south of England as well as the West and East Midlands.

A message from Bournemouth Council tells people to go home if the beach is too busy
A message from Bournemouth Council tells people to go home if the beach is too busy. Picture: PA
Large crowds have gathered across the UK's beaches despite social distancing measures remaining in place
Large crowds have gathered across the UK's beaches despite social distancing measures remaining in place. Picture: PA

The warning requires social and healthcare services to target specific actions at high-risk groups, according to the Met Office website.

Health authorities have encouraged those most vulnerable - many of whom have been shielding during lockdown - to protect themselves amid the "exceptionally hot weather forecast this week".

Public Health England (PHE) said older people, those with underlying health conditions, and very young children were all more at risk from the higher temperatures.

The thermometer had already hit 30C at Porthmadog in Wales on Thursday morning.

The Met Office has issued a yellow warning for thunderstorms across Northern Ireland, Wales and the west of Scotland and England, with the storms set to move eastwards into Friday.

The rainfall brings a risk of flooding and disruption to some places, the forecaster said.

Temperatures reached 32.6C (90.7F) at London's Heathrow Airport at 2.46pm on Wednesday.

Met Office meteorologist John Griffiths said there was a "low chance" that the Welsh Marches - the area along the Welsh border - could see temperatures of 34C (93.2F) "very locally".

Should that happen, it would be the hottest June on record in Wales, surpassing the previous peak of 33.7C (92.7F) on June 18, 2000.

The storms are expected to continue from midday on Friday through to Saturday morning, with another yellow warning in place for the whole of the UK.

Areas hit by the storms could experience "torrential downpours" with between 30mm to 50mm of rain falling in an hour.

People have been advised to keep cool and stay hydrated where possible.

The Met Office said UV levels were expected to remain at eight across many parts of the UK on Thursday.

Brighton beach appeared packed on the hottest day of the year so far
Brighton beach appeared packed on the hottest day of the year so far. Picture: PA

Dr Michaela Hegglin, associate professor in atmospheric chemistry at the University of Reading's Department of Meteorology, said Thursday could see some of the "highest UV levels ever recorded" in Britain.

She said: "This is because of a combination of factors. We are at the summer solstice, when the sun is almost directly overhead at one o'clock.

"UV levels this high are rare in the UK, so people with light skin should be very careful to avoid getting burnt.

"While UV is important for getting vitamin D and keeping us healthy, too much of it can cause skin cancer or eye cataracts."

Friends, family and neighbours have been urged to keep checking on the vulnerable, who might still be spending more time at home due to coronavirus, by keeping in touch on the phone.

Shoppers have also been advised to be aware they could be forced to spend extra time in the sun as a result of social distancing measures, and warned to protect themselves by bringing water and wearing high factor sunscreen.

Police patrolling Southend beach
Police patrolling Southend beach. Picture: LBC News

Dog owners have been urged to avoid exercising their pets during the hottest part of the day, with Vets Now, a provider of emergency veterinary care, warning that the average survival rate of a dog diagnosed with heatstroke was 50 per cent.

Meanwhile, fire chiefs said they wanted to "debunk this myth" that hand sanitiser left in hot cars could pose a fire risk.

Roy Wilsher, NFCC chair said: "We want to reassure people that this product will not combust if left in a car - even on the hottest day. For hand sanitiser to cause a fire it would need to come into contact with a spark.

"Hand sanitiser is very important in the fight against the spread of Covid-19, therefore it is is essential we debunk this myth."

People are advised to keep their hand sanitiser containers closed and out of direct sunlight and ensure they keep it away from any naked flame.

London Fire Brigade has warned people not to have barbecues on dry grass, not to drop cigarettes or matches, and not to leave rubbish such as glass bottles lying around amid a risk they could start fires.