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Air and sea rescue figures soar 20pc

Air and sea rescues soared by a fifth last year, with the Irish Coast Guard assisting more than 3,500 people.

Statistics showed 1,839 emergency calls were answered throughout 2010, with numbers spiking during the cold snap.

Declan Geoghegan, manager of the Irish Coast Guard, said the 20pc rise in the number of people helped was mainly due to the severe weather conditions at the end of the year.

He revealed crews helped gardai, local authorities, health workers and medical patients as Arctic conditions swept across the country.

"The Coast Guard also provided assistance to the farming community by airlifting animal feed during the severe weather," he added.

Mr Geoghegan revealed there was a notable drop in the number of calls to help those using leisure craft or diving, which he attributed to efforts by the Marine Safety Working Group in alerting people to the dangers of the sea and coastline. However, 49 fatalities were recorded during the year.

Safety tips for swimmers, boaters, walkers and divers include planning coastline, sea or inland waterway activities in advance and advise someone ashore of your plans, checking weather and tides, checking your craft and equipment, and never going out alone.

Mr Geoghegan criticised the increase in hoax and nuisance calls and false alarms.

"We are working closely with an Garda Siochana in addressing hoax calls," he said.

"Coast Guard Units right around Ireland are on standby today, as we are 24/7 to respond to incidents, to provide assistance and to save lives. This is important work and something we take very seriously indeed."

PA Media