AN INCREASE in visitors to the Dorset seaside saw Coastguard callouts surge above figures recorded in the previous four years.

Data obtained by the Daily Echo through a FOI request revealed that over the first 11 months of 2020, HM Coastguard recorded a 14 per cent incident increase compared to the whole of 2019 for the region from St Alban's Head near Swanage to Portland.

With 454 incidents from January 1 to December 6, the Coastguard teams were called out to the region around nine times a week.

A senior Coastguard official said the rise in coastal footfall this year had an impact on the number of incidents.

These responses included a number of high-profile major incidents, such as the multi-agency response to people injured tombstoning at Durdle Door in May.

Tom Wright, Coastal Operations Area Commander with Her Majesty’s Coastguard covering Dorset, Hampshire and the Isle of Wight, said: "There has been a big increase in visitors to the coast this year for fresh air, coastal walks, beach and water sports activity.

"We completely understand the attraction of the coast and eagerness of all to get outdoors after spending large parts of this year indoors, but a rise in coastal footfall has had an impact on the number of incidents our Coastguard Rescue Teams in Dorset have been called to help with.

“We’ve always been there and will continue to respond when someone dials 999 in a coastal emergency and asks for the coastguard but this Christmas and over the New Year period, we want to remind people to take note of our safety advice and not take any unnecessary risks. Please be responsible for your own actions and follow the Government’s Covid-19 guidance.”

The callout figure for 2020 is higher than the numbers for 2016 (331 incidents), 2017 (358 incidents), 2018 (353 incidents) and 2019 (398 incidents).

Mr Wright added: "Our Coastguard Rescue Teams in Dorset – like all of our other dedicated teams elsewhere around the UK – are on call 24-7, all year round, and are prepared and ready to deal with all emergency situations at the coast.

"We're immensely proud of the hard work and contributions of our Coastguard Rescue Teams, which it shouldn’t be forgotten are made up of mostly volunteers who give their time for free.

“Our teams have worked tirelessly this year and continued to do so over the festive period – despite the added challenges of the Covid-19 pandemic. We are committed to keeping people safe at the coast and at sea.