Hurricane Bertha cause havoc in County Down
Hurricane Bertha was responsible for capsizing 20 vessels this week at the GP15 world championship event in County Down. The 176 competitors and 88 boats on Strangford Lough were met with winds of 37 knots causing the unexpected downturn.
The emergency services immediately swung into action and Portaferry lifeboat was launched to rescue the sailors. As a precaution a full scale emergency drill was put in place with Ulster hospital being put on full alert and all emergency crew were sent to the scene including ambulance, fire, coastguard and two police helicopters.
As a result all sailors were safely rescues from the water and no major injuries occurred. A spokesman for the East Down club explained what happened:
“A number of the boats capsized and were being successfully corrected by their crews and the 13 safety boats that were accompanying the fleet when I made the call to the Coastguard. The race officer correctly made the decision to contact the Coastguard as a precaution in case the weather continued to be poor but in fact it improved within just 15 minutes. No one in the event was seriously injured apart from a few cuts and bruises which is consistent with the sport at this level.”
He went on to say how grateful they all were for the quick response of the emergency services: “We were astonished by the emergency response and will be twirling out how it happened this way but it just showed us that if we were in trouble, the emergency services were right there for us. Thankfully it effectively turned into a positive exercise for everyone and we will assess how the responses were activated at that scale. I called the Portaferry Coastguard myself as a precaution and they were aware of that.”
However despite the safe rescue of the sailors, some false information got reported “suddenly we saw inaccurate reports in the TV that 100 children had ended up in the water and needed rescued. It was totally wrong and a real worry for anyone who wasn’t on site who had friends of family competing. There were a lot of worried phone calls coming in.”
A fire Officer at the scene reported “We treated this as a full scale emergency exercise and we are very grateful the news is not worse.”
A sentiment shared by the East Down club representative. “We are fortunate that we didn’t need the vast amount of emergency help that turned up so quickly but we are grateful that they were there and confident in the fact that the emergency protocol swung into action.”