Alert over lethal canals

This recently dredged section of canal at Wigan shows what dangers can lurk beneath the surface

This recently dredged section of canal at Wigan shows what dangers can lurk beneath the surface

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A new safety campaign has been launched to prevent deaths in the borough’s canals and flashes.

The Manchester Water Safety Forum has been launched to reduce water-related deaths and injuries across Greater Manchester.

The group brings together experts from Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service, Greater Manchester Police, Manchester City Council), CityCo, The Canal and River Trust, The Royal Life Saving Society UK, the Drowning Prevention Charity and The Royal National Lifeboat Institution.

The drive will centre around drinking and entering water when intoxicated, initially focusing on Manchester, expanding to other areas, including Wigan.

Chairman of the Forum, GMFRS station manager David Wilson, said: “Waterways can be become deadly at night after someone has had a few drinks. Around 25 per cent of people who drown have alcohol in their system and statistics from across the UK show that Saturday nights have the highest number of drownings than any other night of the week.

“The Manchester Water Safety Forum is carrying out risk assessments and exploring different ways we can make our tow paths and river banks safer.

“Our partners CityCo have been working with the North West Ambulance Service and GMFRS to train door staff and install defibrillators near the water’s edge.

“Sometimes when our crews rescue people from canals or rivers in the city centre the people they save are so drunk they don’t even know how they ended up in the water - ultimately we need people to take care of themselves and their friends on a night out.

“If you’ve had a few drinks please take a safe route home away from water – one drunken slip could end your life.”

RLSS UK’s Deputy Director of Education and Research, Mike Dunn added: “Around 400 people needlessly die from drowning in the UK every year and thousands more suffer injury, some life-changing, through near-drowning experiences. Putting these figures into context one person dies every 20 hours in the UK and a third of all 18 to 21-year-old drowning victims have alcohol in their bloodstream.

“We are thrilled this multi-agency partnership is backing RLSS UK’s Don’t Drink and Drown campaign and messages and is going to continue to educate local people on water safety and give vital awareness on how to stay safe near. It will potentially save lives.”

The group was launched in the Chief Fire Officers Association’s Drowning Prevention and Water Safety Week.