About 1,100 children were temporarily separated from their families along the Belgian coast in July, the West Flanders coastal rescue service, IKWV, reported on Monday. This was the largest number of children ever to go missing in any given month and it even exceeded the total for the two summer months in 2017. The high number has been attributed to the weather: when it is warm and sunny, more people go to the beach.
During the first two weeks of July, 597 children were temporarily lost, while 503 went missing for short periods in the second half of the month.
The previous record was in 2006, when there were 1,049 temporary disappearances in one month.
Ostend and Blankenberge are the beach resorts with the largest numbers of misplaced children, 300 and 250 respectively, followed by De Haan and De Panne, with about 110, while about 10 minors were temporarily separated from their families in Bredene and Zeebrugge.
There were no major incidents and most of the children were reunited with their parents or guardians within 10 minutes. According to the IKWV, this success was due mainly tothe orientation bracelets distributed free of charge.
There were also a few major rescue interventions, most of them involving people who drifted too far from the shore and were surprised by the current, which was often colder.
A large number of vacationers with heart or other health problems were also assisted at emergency stations. These continue to be open in August. They cover 34 kilometres of protected areas for swimmers.