Wednesday, 23 September 2009

RNLI issues stark warning after another busy summer for Welsh rescuers

Preliminary figures* for summer 2009, issued today (23 Sept) by the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI), show the charity’s lifeboats and lifeguards have had another busy summer holiday season. Despite research** showing that public awareness of beach safety in 2009 increased by a dramatic 21 per cent, there has been an increase in the need for RNLI lifeboats and lifeguard during this summer.

RNLI lifeguards who were introduced in Ceredigion, Carmarthenshire and Swansea for the first time this summer responded to 1,022 incidents on the 28 beaches along the coast of Wales, including 12 in Pembrokeshire. The number of incidents in Pembrokeshire has increased from 494 when the service was first introduced in 2008 to 625 this summer.

The 46 RNLI lifeboats operating out of Wales’ 31 RNLI lifeboat stations launched 518 times during the summer months, a slight increase on last year’s summer figures. However some stations, on Anglesey in particular have seen rescue figures soar, some by more than double. The alarming trend has led to a stark warning from the charity about incidents which could have been prevented.

Colin Williams, RNLI Divisional Inspector of lifeboats for Wales says:

‘We have seen some dramatic incidents in Wales this summer, a number of tragedies have been averted thanks to the quick response and professionalism of the RNLI’s volunteer crews. We are however, extremely shocked that despite consistent warnings, people have still put themselves in extremely dangerous situations and are failing to act on our advice.’

Since 2005, Rhyl has been the busiest RNLI lifeboat station in Wales annually, but this year the trend has been bucked after an exceptionally busy period for Moelfre, which experienced its busiest ever summer. The Anglesey station clocked up 42 launches between June, July and August compared with 21 launches in 2008. People being blown by fresh winds out to sea on inflatables was one of the main reason for the services of the RNLI’s crew being called upon.

Mr Williams adds:

‘Despite warnings about the dangers of the use of inflatables on beaches, people still fail to realise how dangerous they can be. At Moelfre in particular the volunteer RNLI crew have been repeatedly called out to several incidents a day, many of these calls involving children and young people being blown out to sea in totally unsuitable craft and with inadequate clothing and no personal floatation equipment.’

Anglesey as a whole has experienced a busy period, with Beaumaris being the second busiest lifeboat station in Wales with 35 call outs. Holyhead was the second busiest all-weather lifeboat station in Wales this summer with 13 call outs. More than half the RNLI lifeboat stations in Wales experienced in increase in launches compared with the same period last summer.

At Penarth, the number of rescues rose by 150 per cent from 14 launches in 2008 to 35 in 2009 and launches at New Quay also doubled. It has also been a busy summer for RNLI lifeguards. In Ceredigion, RNLI lifeguards responded to 184 incidents and 213 in Swansea. Whitesands in Pembrokeshire was the busiest beach with 119 incidents during the three month period.

Neil Thomas, RNLI Divisional Lifeguard Manager says:

‘Our world-class lifeguards have been working long days and weekends on some of Wales’ busiest beaches to ensure help is always there when it’s needed. We found many more people holidayed at home this year mainly on the coast, so we saw a big increase in the number of people requiring the services of our lifeguards. If holidaying at home is going to be a feature of future summers, we will have to work even harder to get the RNLI’s safety messages across.’

Nationally RNLI lifeboats launched nearly 4,000 times (3,979) during June, July and August (3,823 in 2008) while the charity’s lifeguards responded to 10,237 incidents over the same period (8,114 in 2008). As a charity, the RNLI relies totally on the generosity of the public to fund its services. It costs £1,200 per year to train a crew member and £1,000 per season to train and equip a lifeguard.

Anyone wishing to make a donation to the charity can log on to call 0800 543210 or write to RNLI, West Quay Road, Poole, Dorset BH15 1HZ.

The RNLI offers free all-year-round safety advice for sea users and beach visitors at


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