'Know the waters are dangerous' - Rip tide warning following rescue from Norfolk beach

Sea Palling beach where the RNLI lifeguards are back on duty. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

The scorching weather sparked a busy weekend for coastguards, with incidents including 11 people in difficulty in the water at Sea Palling. - Credit: Copyright: Archant 2020

The rescue of 11 people, who were swept out to sea by a riptide, has highlighted the very real dangers of the Norfolk coast, the emergency services have warned.

The incident was just one in a number of emergencies along the North Norfolk coast over the hot and sunny weekend, which also saw children stuck on unstable cliffs and one incident where a seven-year-old girl had to be pulled from the water.

The warnings come after summer 2020 saw a number of serious incidents along the Norfolk coast including the deaths of two people.

In August 2020, a mother died after trying to rescue two boys who were struggling with an inflatable off Waxham beach and less than a week later a second woman died after getting into difficulty in the water off Overstrand.

There were also numerous incidents of people getting cut off by the tide.

Sea Palling lifeboat crew, masked for protection, in training. Photo: Sea Palling Lifeboat

Sea Palling lifeboat crew, masked for protection, in training. Photo: Sea Palling Lifeboat - Credit: Archant

Sea Palling Independent Lifeboat was called at 7.55pm on Sunday, June 13, following reports 11 people, including children, had got into difficulty in the water off Sea Palling beach.

Within minutes members of the team were on the scene and by the time the full crew and other emergency services arrived seven minutes later, the last person had been pulled from the water by a kayaker.

All 11 people were assessed at the scene and none required hospital treatment but Andreas Schroeer, the coxswain of Sea Palling Independent Lifeboat, has said the incident highlighted the dangers of rip tides.

A graphic showing how riptides form

A graphic showing how riptides form - Credit: Archant

Dr Schroeer said the riptide at Sea Palling was caused by water rushing over the sandbanks off the beach at a speed of around six knots.

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He said during the day RNLI lifeguards were on hand to keep watch over the beach and put up red flags when it was unsafe to swim but Sunday's incident had happened after their shift had finished.

"[The lifeguards] finished their shift at 6pm and there are still people on the beach, and because of Covid we've got a lot of people coming to the beach who used to go on holiday abroad, where you don't get these issues.

"[Sunday] was an example of several families' first time in Sea Palling, loving the beach, it was brilliant weather, they had a fantastic time and just before they decided to go the children wanted to wash the sand off their legs and they go in the water right on that sand bar, a few steps deeper, a few steps deeper and then they get washed away," he said.

People enjoy the sun at Sea Palling on the hottest day of the year so far.

People enjoy the sun at Sea Palling on the hottest day of the year so far. - Credit: Kate Wolstenholme

Dr Schroeer said as soon as someone was "hip-high" in the water they had "no chance" of withstanding the riptide and with children, it was even worse.

He said if the people had entered the water 30-metres to the right they would have been fine.

"People who don't know the conditions need to be careful, they need to ask local people, ask us at the lifeboat station. Know that the waters are dangerous and it's rip tides and inflatables. Inflatables are for a pool not for the sea," he said.

Bacton Coastguard station officer Pete Revell. 

Bacton Coastguard station officer Pete Revell. - Credit: Supplied by Pete Revell

Pete Revell, the station officer at Bacton for HM Coastguard and his crew were called to five incidents over the weekend, making it a very busy period for the team of volunteers.

Mr Revell said: "It was a very, very busy weekend and this is not our full-time job, we still have full-time jobs in the day as well so as much as we are here to save lives we are volunteers."

He said aside from the cliffs which are "very dangerous" he felt most visitors to the coast knew the risks.

Mr Revell said: "Go to lifeguarded beaches, swim between the flags, make sure you are tethered on paddleboards and don't take inflatables on the sea, it's a no-no. So if you bought a unicorn this summer take it to a pool, not the North Sea."

In North Norfolk, Cromer East and West beaches, East Runton, West Runton, Mundesley, Sheringham East and West beaches, Wells-next-Sea and Sea Palling beaches all have lifeguards.

A full list of RNLI lifeguarded beaches can be found at rnli.org/find-my-nearest/lifeguarded-beaches