Suicides numbers up, say coastguard

PEOPLE committing suicide in the sea around Britain's coasts and in its harbours and rivers is up 50 per cent, according to new statistics released today.

PEOPLE committing suicide in the sea around Britain's coasts and in its harbours and rivers is up 50 per cent, according to new statistics released today.

The suicides were part of 14,000 search and rescue incidents handled nationally last year by the Coastguards - including 835 in the Thames area, which includes the Suffolk coast.

A team of Coastguards from Felixstowe were called out in February last year to deal with tragedy when Dr Jaya Prakash Chiti, 41, committed suicide.

He jumped off the Orwell Bridge with his two-year-old son Pranau after stabbing his wife Anupama, 36, to death.

Thames Coastguards, based at Walton-on-the-Naze, helped 1,175 people last year, co-ordinating the rescue of 347 people. There were 17 lives lost.

The service's control room also had to deal with 16 hoax calls.

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Officials from the Maritime and Coastguard Agency said the total number of recorded deaths - 364 - was up on the previous year.

However, the bulk of the increase was accounted for by suicide cases, up 50pc, and by the Morecambe Bay cockle pickers tragedy, when 21 people died.

Of the fatalities recorded by the Coastguard, 96 were maritime-related and 92 were recovered bodies. There were 176 suicides, or suspected suicides, compared with 118 in 2003.

The numbers of people getting into difficulty and being assisted or rescued fell by 13pc.

Operations director and chief coastguard, John Astbury said: "Accidents will always happen, and I would reiterate our message that no one should hesitate to contact HM Coastguard if they are in the slightest doubt about their own safety or the safety of others.

"There has been increased reporting from the general public and this is good news, given our efforts both to raise awareness of the Coastguard and its services, and encourage people to alert the Coastguard as quickly as possible, which can often lessen the severity of the outcome.

"It is encouraging fewer people got into difficulty and needed our help in 2004, although, sadly, there has also been a rise in the number of suicides this year.

"I remain concerned there continues to be a rise in the number of hoax calls.

"We are working with the other emergency services, to make use of advances in technology which will improve our ability to trace these calls and provide evidence to the police for future prosecutions."

Do you have a story about the work of the coastguard? Write in to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or e-mail eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk

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