RNLI highlights dangers of swimming in the Tweed

Berwick lifeboat station

Berwick lifeboat station

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Berwick RNLI have issued a warning to children spotted swimming in the River Tweed during the recent warm weather.

Lifeboat personnel are concerned that many are unaware of the risks they are exposing theselves to due to the strong tidal currents.

Hazel Bettison of Berwick RNLI said: “We’ve had reports of children enjoying the nice spell of weather and swimming in the river.

“This is very dangerous. The river has strong tidal currents and there have been many cases of people getting into trouble over the years.”

The warning comes as the RNLI reveals that 29 people accidentally lost their lives around the north of England coast last year – the highest number in four years.

The number of near-misses was even higher, with 52 lives being saved by the RNLI’s lifeboat crews and lifeguards in the north.

The charity has launched a major drowning awareness campaign, Respect the Water, warning people to stay safe this summer.

Over the past four years, a total of 90 people have died around coasts of the north of England – an average of 23 each year.

The figures show a clear gender divide, with adult men accounting for two-thirds (66%) of northern coastal deaths over this time.

Michael Avril, the RNLI’s community incident reduction manager, 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.

“Of course we want people to go to the coast and enjoy it – we’re lucky to have an exceptional coastline around the UK – but we want people to understand there are risks, and that they should not underestimate the power of the sea.”

Swimming and general leisure use of the water accounted for 20 (22%) of the coastal deaths in the north since 2010. Slips and falls while walking and running accounted for 27 (30%) of fatalities. Alcohol consumption is also a contributing factor in around one-fifth (21%) of deaths.

Cold water shock is a significant danger. 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 and then make for safety.

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