Beach visitors increasingly put themselves in grave danger by ignoring tide times, lifeboat crews warn
- Credit: Ian Burt
Holidaymakers exploring Norfolk and Suffolk's vast expanse of beautiful beaches are increasingly putting themselves in grave danger by ignoring tide times, sea rescuers have warned.
The region's coastline has steadily grown in popularity over the past few years, as more people opt for staycations over foreign travel and discover the delights of beaches such as Holkham, Snettisham and Kessingland.
But that, lifeboat crews say, has meant more tourists putting themselves in danger as they venture out onto beautiful open beaches, blissfully unaware the tide is about to come in and leave them swamped.
In one dramatic incident last year, a father and his two children were swept away by the sea after they got cut off by the tide at Hunstanton having been lulled into a false sense of security. It was only a miracle which prevented them from drowning, the RNLI said.
In Southwold, crews have repeatedly warned dog walkers to stay safe after having to save increasing numbers of people who got into trouble themselves while trying to rescue their pets.
Geoff Needham, spokesman for Hunstanton RNLI, said that whereas crews only used to deal with two or three people cut off by the tide each year, they are now rescuing around 15 people a year.
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'They are mainly holidaymakers or people on a day trip who have found themselves in trouble,' he said. 'People get off the beaten track and don't realise the tide is coming in.
'Sometimes it looks so tempting but what they don't realise, or seem to be oblivious to, is the time of the tide. They get out on the sand and the next thing, they look round and the water is round their ankles.
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'There is quite a strong current when the tide comes in.'
Changing weather conditions mean that people walking out onto the beach in clear skies might find themselves walking back through fog – and therefore be confused as to where they are.
His advice for avoiding disaster is that: 'People should know what the tide is doing and have means of communication if they do get cut off, so they can call the coastguard.' He also urged people to let friends and relatives know where they are going and when to expect them to return, as well as for tourists to always carry extra clothing as 'the conditions change so quickly'.
Audrey Smith, spokesman for Cromer RNLI, said it was fortunate that Cromer beach benefits from lifeguards during the summer to help prevent holidaymakers from danger.
But she said: 'We do get families, even when there is a red flag, who go out in inflatable boats and don't realise how strong the tides are.'
She urged people to check the organisation's website for weather updates and safety warnings.
Mick Howes, RNLI press officer at Lowestoft Lifeboat station, said: 'Swimming in open water is very different to swimming in a pool. Unseen currents, cold water and waves make swimming in the sea more challenging and even the strongest swimmers can tire quickly.
'But there are a number of sensible precautions that can be taken to minimise the risks – the principle one being to swim between the red and yellow flags on a lifeguarded beach.'