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9 July 2015, 07:36
A new campaign by the RNLI is aiming to halve the number of deaths off the coast after figures show 163 people died last year - with 5 off Hampshire and the Isle of Wight.
361 people were also rescued from water off the South Coast.
The charity launches its 2015 national drowning prevention campaign, Respect the Water, warning people that our coastlines and waters can be dangerously unpredictable. The charity is releasing two hard-hitting campaign films, which will be shown in cinemas across the UK and Ireland from tomorrow (10 July).
The five-year figures portray a consistent picture, with an average of 27 lives lost around the south east coast each year. Of the 134 people who died over the past five years, one-third (33%) were taking part in activities like walking, running, climbing and boating and were, therefore, unlikely to have intended to enter the water. Slips and falls while walking and running accounted for 13% (17) of the region’s coastal deaths.
Swimming, jumping in and general leisure use contributed to the majority of fatalities, accounting for 30% (40) of the region’s coastal deaths over the five-year period. Sailing and people in the water (whose activity was unknown) each accounted for 11% (15) of the deaths.
Men are far more prone to getting into danger at the coast than women. Over three-quarters (76%) of the deaths across the five years were men, while last year they accounted for 72% of the lives lost at the south east coast.
The RNLI is aiming to halve the number of coastal deaths by 2024. The charity’s national drowning prevention campaign, Respect the Water, is this year warning people – particularly adult men – to be aware of the dangers of the coastline, as well as the water itself.
Guy Addington, RNLI Community Incident Reduction Manager for the south east, said:
"Most people heading for a stroll or run along the coastline probably wouldn’t consider a drowning prevention campaign like this relevant to them as they have no plans at all to enter the water.
"We’re warning people that if they’re going near the water, whatever their activity, they could be at risk and they need to take care. Unexpected dangers like slippery rocks, sudden waves or unstable ground can catch anyone out."
The charity is also warning people of the unpredictability of the water, including the dangers of cold water and rip currents. Summer air temperatures may be warm but the average UK sea temperature is just 12oc. Cold water shock, which causes uncontrollable gasping and numbs the limbs, can set in at any temperature below 15oc.
Rips are strong currents of water which can quickly drag people out of their depth. They account for around two-thirds of the environmental-related incidents RNLI lifeguards respond to each year. For those not at a lifeguarded beach, being caught in a rip can prove fatal if they don’t take the right steps to free themselves and make it safely to shore.
Guy Addington from the RNLI adds:
"The water might look inviting, but it can be dangerously unpredictable, with hazards which can be fatal if not respected. Cold water is a major risk for anyone who ends up in the water – intentionally or otherwise. The body’s reaction to sudden immersion in cold water will trigger uncontrollable gasping, which can draw water into the lungs and lead to drowning. The coldness will also gradually shut down the use of limbs, making it very difficult even for strong swimmers to stay afloat.
"Currents under the surface can overwhelm even the strongest swimmers. They drag people out of their depth so quickly, and if you try to swim against them you’ll become exhausted.
"We want people to enjoy the water but to make sure they respect it. On average 27 lives are lost around the south east coast each year but many of these losses could be avoided if people acknowledge the dangers and follow some basic safety advice."
UK-wide, 163 people died at the coast last year. The RNLI’s Respect the Water campaign, warning people of the dangerously unpredictable nature of our seas and coastlines, will run across the UK and Ireland during the summer, through advertising channels including cinema, outdoor, radio and online.
The charity is also running a number of tailored safety programmes, targeted at those who participate in the activities which account for a large number of coastal incidents each year. For example, a scheme urging divers over 50 to get a health check before their next dive, and another reminding kayakers to make sure they carry a means of calling for help and keep it within reach at all times.
Those interested in finding out more about the dangers of the coast can visit the Respect the Water website and see for themselves at www.rnli.org/respectthewater or search #RespectTheWater on social media.