Busy season for lifeboat crews as poor weather sees spike in call outs

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SUNDERLAND lifeboat station carried out the most rescue launches in the north of England this summer.

New figures from the RNLI show that there were 34 rescues undertaken by volunteers at the Wearside station over the past three months, a decrease from 45 in 2011.

The next three busiest stations in the north of the country were Skegness with 30 rescue launches, Blackpool with 28 and Seahouses, in Northumberland, with 22 launches.

Paul Nicholson, senior helmsman with Sunderland RNLI, said the statistics had been “primarily down to the poor weather”.

“I think why we have seen such a decrease is because 2011 was our busiest ever year so that will be why we have seen a reduction.

“Last year over the 12 months we had 111 call outs and this year it has been a lot less, although these new figures are just for the summer which is June, July and August.

“In the last week in August in particular we were called out seven times so it’s certainly towards the end of that period we saw incidents going up.”

Mr Nicholson added that typical call-outs dealt with by the Sunderland crew were due to vessels suffering mechanical failure.

Among the people saved by RNLI crews were swimmers in serious difficulty, children on inflatables, kayakers who overturned and people walking on the beach who became cut off by the tide.

Summer 2012 was the wettest for a century.

This is thought to have had an impact on the number of RNLI lifeboat launches, which in the north of England as a whole were down 29 per cent on last summer.

Met Office figures released for June, July and August show that 370.7mm of rain fell across the UK, making it the second wettest summer on record since the 384.4mm of rain seen in the summer of 1912.

RNLI divisional inspector, north, Andy Clift, welcomed the fall in figures, also saying that a poor summer in terms of sunny weather had contributed to there being fewer incidents.

Mr Clift said: “Our lifeboat volunteers tend to be busiest when the sun is shining and people are flocking to the coast.

“This summer, there weren’t many days like that and we think that is the reason for the fall in lifeboat launches from 525 in 2011 to 407 this summer.”

Mr Clift added: “However, some lifeboat stations – Skegness and Blackpool, for example – actually launched more times than last summer and right around the coast, RNLI crews were on call 24/7 throughout the summer season.

“Many rescues were carried out in bad weather or challenging conditions and once again, our charity owes a huge debt of thanks to our volunteers for giving up time with their families or at work to help save lives at sea.”

Mr Clift also said that those who raised funds for the RNLI had to be praised for once again helping the charity carry out its work.

“Many fund-raising events were hit by bad weather – some even had to be cancelled – but others went ahead thanks to the fortitude and dedication of our community fundraisers who were happy to face the worst of the British summer weather to help raise money for our charity,” he said.

“The RNLI depends on people like them to fund our lifeboat service - without their hard work, our lifeboat crews would be unable to continue saving lives at sea.”

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