Coastguard has its busiest day in four years on third hottest day ever

The Coastguard was called more than 300 times during yesterday’s scorching weather – making it the service’s busiest day in four years.

It comes after beaches made desperate pleas yesterday for people not to visit after large swathes of visitors flocked to them in the heatwave.

Temperatures reached 37.8°C at London’s Heathrow Airport at 2.41pm, making it the UK’s third hottest day on record.

Julie-Anne Wood, from the Coastguard, said: ‘Yesterday was a beautiful day weather-wise in much of the UK. It was less beautiful a day for those who got themselves into trouble and had to be rescued. Some people will remember July 31 for all the wrong reasons.

‘We completely understand that people want to enjoy the coast. We also know that even the most experienced swimmer, paddleboarder and walker can be caught out by currents and tides respectively.

‘We’re heading into some more good weather and we would really ask you to check and double check the tide times – put a timer warning on a smartphone to remind you – be aware of things like rip currents, and make sure you have a means of contacting us if things do go wrong.

‘We’ll always respond when someone calls 999 and asks for the Coastguard, we’ll always answer distress on VHF (radio) and we’ll always do everything we can to rescue those in need. All we ask in return is that you take extra care at the coast – it can be unmerciful to the unwary and even to those who know it well.’

Most calls to the Coastguard were about people being cut off by the tide, missing children and swimmers getting into difficulty.

The Coastguard said the total number of UK incidents was 329, including 232 call outs for coastguard rescue teams, 129 for lifeboats, 22 requiring aircraft and three for a hovercraft.

The coast along Essex and Kent saw a total of 45 incidents, it added.

Thanet District Council, in Kent, asked people to avoid four of the area’s beaches due to the number of visitors.

Council leader Councillor Rick Everitt said: ‘Early on, it became clear that they were going to reach levels of which we were concerned about.’

Authorities expressed concern about keeping tourists safe in the water, as well as the potential spread of coronavirus and maintaining social distancing.

Mr Everitt said Thanet’s beaches had seen ‘exceptional’ numbers of visitors driven by the balmy conditions.

‘We’re happy for people to come to Thanet, our economy is dependent on it, and obviously a lot of businesses in the coastal areas are struggling, because they missed so much of the season,’ he added.

‘So it is a bit of a balancing act for us, because we don’t want to be saying, “Don’t come,” as we know small businesses around our seafront are desperate for the revenue.’

He said the facilities on the beaches, such as toilets, were not equipped for the number of tourists, while authorities would be able to cope better if demand was better distributed along the coastline.

‘It’s an irony isn’t it that seaside towns have spent years complaining that people no longer visit them because they go abroad,’ he said.

‘We’re getting greater numbers than we’ve ever seen since package holidays became a thing.’

Met Office forecaster Simon Partridge said ‘the weekend is going to be pretty good’, and added: ‘Both days are going to be mostly dry across the UK with sunny spells and some showers at times that may be out to the north and the west of the country.’

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