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7 June 2016, 10:34
A rescue helicopter, three lifeboats and dozens of volunteers were involved in the operation to rescue dozens of school children from a beach in Dover last night.
The group of 34 teenagers and two adults from London became trapped by the rising tide after getting lost during a walk on a coastal path between St Margaret's Bay and Dover Harbour.
They called police who then contacted the coastguard at about 9pm last night. The all-weather lifeboat from Dover RNLI and both inshore lifeboats from Walmer RNLI were then launched to take part in the search and rescue operation, alongside the Langdon Coastguard Rescue Team and the Coastguard search and rescue helicopter.
UK Coastguard senior maritime operations officer Richard Cockerill said: "The group was advised to switch on their mobile phone lights to help us locate them.
"The group was located by one of the Walmer lifeboats in an area of active cliff falls and also spotted by the helicopter using the forward-looking infra-red camera."
When RNLI teams arrived at the scene they found the group had separated and four students were unaccounted for.
A small craft was launched to pick up the pupils in groups from the shoreline as crews searched for the missing teenagers who were found after shouting to rescuers from the rocks.
By the end of the rescue mission, 31 of the walkers were rescued by lifeboat and taken ashore. The remaining five were lifted to safety by helicopter and flown to the Dover Coastguard station.
Dover RNLI Coxswain, Mark Finnis, said: "The group were caught out by a rising tide. Thankfully the quick and well co-ordinated search and rescue response meant all 36 casualties were rescued and were lucky to escape without serious injuries, but they've had a traumatic experience.'
Deputy Launching Authority at Dover lifeboat station, James Salmon, said: "As we approach the summer with lighter evenings, this incident highlights how easy it can be to get cut off by the tide whilst out walking. The group also faced the dangers of cliff falls along this iconic stretch of coastline.
"Surprisingly, the biggest risk when enjoying our coastline can be activities such as coastal walking and running. It’s easy to get caught out by unexpected tides and waves.
"We encourage people to keep themselves safe and treat water with respect by staying away from cliff edges and areas prone to cliff falls, sticking to marked paths and checking local hazards and safety information, such as tide times, before setting out."