10 hurt as storm hits dinghies on Strangford Lough

Ten sailors have been injured after a regatta in the North was hit by a squall, the Maritime and Coastguard agency said.

The casualties were mostly suffering from the effects of hypothermia after 80 dinghies sailing in Strangford Lough were hit by a sudden change in the weather. Heavy rain and strong winds caused competitors, including children, to fall into the water.

Some 97 people are believed to have ended up in the water after boats capsized.

Belfast Coastguard was first contacted just before 2pm reporting that some of the boats had overturned, while others were struggling to cope in the strong winds and squally showers.

The sailors had been competing in the Boating World Championships GP 14 event off Killyleagh, hosted by the East Down Yacht Club on Strangford.

Some racing was cancelled yesterday after strong winds hit the lough, notorious for its strong tidal range and currents. Competitions were due to run until Friday.

Strangford is south west of Belfast in Co Down. It has a strong sailing tradition and is popular with all sorts of watersports enthusiasts. A dedicated canoe trail has been laid out along its waters.

The Maritime and Coastguard agency said all sailors had been accounted for after a major incident response and a search and rescue operation swung into effect.

The Bangor and Portaferry Coastguard rescue teams, the Portaferry and Newcastle RNLI lifeboats, the Irish Coast Guard helicopter along with the helicopter from RAF Valley were tasked to the scene.

Ambulance crews were treating the injured at the shoreline.

“It’s believed that all those in the water have been accounted for. However rescue units on scene, including the helicopters and lifeboats, are carrying out further searches to make sure,” the Maritime and Coastguard agency said.

One sailor was treated for head injuries, the spokeswoman for The South Eastern Health and Social Care Trust in Northern Ireland said.

A total of six people were being transferred to the Ulster Hospital after the Northern Ireland Ambulance Service set up tents on the scene to assess those who ended up in the water.

Strangford Lough is an area affected by powerful tides from the sea. It is a short distance south west of Belfast in Co Down.

“There were 97 people in the water,” the spokeswoman said. “Casualties will be being brought to the Ulster Hospital (Dundonald). A major incident and emergency response plan is in operation.”

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