Swimmers and sailors are being reminded to take care in the water as temperatures remain high in Eastbourne and hundreds of people are cooling off in the sea.
Twenty-one people lost their lives on the south east coast last year – with 40 near-misses, who were saved by the lifeboat crew and lifeguards,
Many would assume adrenaline sports and rough weather are the biggest causes of incidents but, in fact, it’s casual, everyday use of the coast and sea which often results in fatalities, said an RNLI spokesman.
Swimming and general leisure use of the water accounted for 29 (26 per cent) of coastal deaths in the south east since 2010.
And it’s not only water-based activities which put people in danger. Slips and falls while walking and running accounted for 13 (12 per cent) of coastal deaths in the south east over the four-year period.
Alcohol consumption is also a frequent issue, with alcohol being a contributing factor in 17 (15 per cent) of the fatalities in the south east.
For those entering the water, intentionally or otherwise, cold water shock is a significant danger. Despite warm summer air temperatures, the UK sea temperature is cold enough year-round to trigger cold water shock – the average UK sea temperature is just 12 degrees C , but cold water shock can set in at any temperature below 15 degrees C.
It causes uncontrollable gasping, which draws water into the lungs. The charity is warning people to be aware of the effects of cold water shock and to acclimatise gradually when getting in to the water.
Other common factors are rip currents and fatigue. Panicking and trying to swim against strong currents is exhausting and can overwhelm even the strongest swimmers. The RNLI’s advice is to not swim against the rip current but, instead, to call for help and swim parallel to shore until free from the rip current and then make for the safety of the beach.
The charity, which saves lives at sea, has launched a Respect the Water campaign, highlighting the risk of drowning around the coasts of the UK.
Guy Addington, the RNLI’s Coastal Safety Manager in the south east, said, “With more people losing their lives at the coast each year than are killed in cycling accidents, we’re trying to make people, particularly men, realise that they are at risk from drowning if they don’t follow some basic but important safety advice.”