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<font color='#333399'>Not sure if this one has been posted before it’s about a week old.

Taken from the Edinburgh Evening news.

Lifeboat rescues of divers on rise

MORE divers are having to be rescued after getting into trouble off the coast around East Lothian, according to lifeboat officials.

The Dunbar lifeboat crew has seen a dramatic increase over the last year in the number of call-outs to attend to divers in distress.

The coast is becoming increasingly popular with divers as visitors from England flock to sites such as the undersea marine reserve around St Abb’s Head in the Borders.

The latest figures released by the Royal National Lifeboat Institution show the number of call-outs for boats serving the East Lothian coast and the Firth of Forth has remained roughly static. But Ian Metcalfe, station press officer for the RNLI in Dunbar, is concerned about the increase in certain types of calls.

He said: "Last year we were called out seven times to diving incidents - one of the incidents alone involved six divers who were all hospitalised.

"There are a lot of divers now coming to Dunbar and North Berwick because St Abb’s is becoming increasingly busy and only has a small harbour. The increasing number of divers is leading to an increasing number of incidents.

"There’s quite a few wartime wrecks at extreme depths which some divers are going down to and getting the bends.

"There are others who get caught up in the currents and drift away from their dive boat. When they surface they can’t see the boat and the boat can’t see them but they can see the much higher profile of the lifeboat."

Decompression sickness, or the bends, happens when the sudden pressure changes divers experience when coming to the surface lead to bubbles of gas forming in the bloodstream.

In extreme cases the condition can cause paralysis or even death. Jim Watson, coaching and instructor training scheme manager with the British Sub Aqua Club, said: "In Scotland the east coast is quite shallow and changing weather conditions change sea conditions quite quickly. It may be that people from England who are coming up and over the Border may not appreciate that.

"Our advice to people is to follow the limitations of their training and, especially if they are coming back to diving after a lay-off, to take things easy."

The RNLI figures also showed that crews at South Queensferry had a busier year than usual in 2002. During the year the boat was launched 50 times and saved 14 lives.

Honorary secretary Tom Robertson said the Firth of Forth was getting busier all the time.

He said: "Even though we’re very inshore there are sudden squalls which come through and affect even the most experienced sailors.

"Most of the yachtsmen get into difficulties when the weather is especially heavy but then there are powerboat drivers who buy a boat and think it’s like driving a car - it’s not and our job is also to try and educate them."

Already this year the South Queensferry crews have been involved in several rescues.

This month, seven canoeists were rescued in the Firth of Forth after their kayaks capsized when they were hit by a change in the weather with wind speeds rising to Force Seven. Two were taken to hospital for check-ups following the incident, which happened a mile north of Cramond Island.

And in February rescue crews were scrambled after two teenagers were reported in trouble on the causeway to Cramond Island.

The RNLI is looking at ways to increase its membership and modernise its fleet to afford the £107 million annual operating costs.

Safe diving
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