Lifeboats hit new record on rescues

East Anglian lifeboats saved a rising tide of seaside holidaymakers and pleasure boaters last year - despite a drop in the overall number of rescue launches.

East Anglian lifeboats saved a rising tide of seaside holidaymakers and pleasure boaters last year - despite a drop in the overall number of rescue launches.

The number of people rescued from rocks or sandbanks by the RNLI, after being cut off by the tide, rose from 44 in 2005 to 64 last year.

Call-outs to people in inflatables, dinghies and canoes rose from 39 to 55. Powerboat incidents were up from 141 to 153.

The statistics form part of a record-breaking national figure last year. RNLI boats were launched 8,377 times, rescuing 8,015 people, making it the highest annual number to date and the third record year in a row for the charity.

Michael Vlasto, RNLI operations director, said people were using the sea in ever-growing numbers for an increasing range of activities. He said: "The RNLI is responding by introducing more inshore lifeboats, faster all-weather lifeboats and expanding our lifeguard service."

Martyn Smith, East Anglia's divisional inspector, said that a knowledge of tide times and maintaining boats could help prevent people getting into difficulties.

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The number of people rescued at Hunstanton appears to have been high - rising from about 27 to 40 - but lifeboat spokesman David Harrison said the total of 40 launches was about the average.

Hunstanton lifeboat station was called into action in July when a mini-tornado overturned 60 boats taking part in a race, leaving 82 sailors in the water.

With funding of around £120m a year, or £330,000 a day, the RNLI relies entirely on donations. It operates 232 lifeboat stations around the coasts of the UK and Republic of Ireland with 4,800 crew, of which more than 4,500 are volunteers.