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Belfast: 40 Kayakers Rescued, Five Still Missing

Maritime And Coastguard Agency (UK)

40 kayakers brought ashore as bad weather halts race in Strangford Lough

Belfast Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre (MRCC) are currently coordinating the rescue of 40 kayakers after limited safety cover and bad weather conditions left them in difficulty in Strangford Lough.

The 40 kayakers were involved in a race from Portaferry to Ards Sailing Club on the North of the Lough, and were a third of the way through when they encountered difficulties and three kayakers entered the water.

Portaferry Inshore Lifeboat was escorting the kayakers through the race, and rescued the three casualties and returned them to Portaferry. Whilst the lifeboat was en route, further kayakers entered the water and the decision was made by Belfast Coastguard to cancel the race and shepherd all kayakers safely ashore.

Currently there are five kayakers still unaccounted for and the Irish Coastguard have tasked Rescue Helicopter 116 to aid in the search. Kinloss ARCC (Air Rescue Coordination Centre) have also scrambled Rescue Helicopter 177 to the scene. Bangor and Portaferry Coastguard Rescue Teams are currently assisting with the operation, and the Police have launched a rescue boat to provide support.

Belfast MRCC Watch Manager Alan Pritchard said:

"Safety cover was initially going to be provided for this race by several rescue boats that, due to engine failure could not attend, leaving only the Portaferry RNLI lifeboat as an escort. As has been shown today, this is not adequate resources for an event like this, and we would advise any kayakers going out in large groups to ensure they have sufficient safety cover should they run into difficulties.

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We would also advise that you check the weather conditions before you leave and only go out within your own comfort zone and capabilities, and always wear the correct safety attire and equipment."

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