A large group of Charedi schoolchildren has been rescued after getting lost on a coastal walk in Kent.
The group of 34 teenagers and two adults from Stamford Hill, north London reported themselves lost, while walking along a beach near St Margaret’s Bay and Dover Harbour – an area prone to rock fall.
The all-male group got into difficulties on Monday night after the tide came in along the Kent coastline, but managed to use the lights on their mobile phones as distress beacons.
They were brought to safety by three lifeboats. There were no reported injuries.
According to rescuers, the group had passed nine warning signs before they stopped to call for help.The pupils rescued were on a half term trip organised by the Ahavat Yisreal Community Centre in Stamford Hill. The centre said: "We are hugely grateful to the coastguard whose swift actions ensured that everyone was returned to the shore safe and well. A full internal investigation will be held to ascertain the facts and understand the lessons to be learned"
Three RNLI lifeboats were dispatched from the Dover and Walmer RNLI stations at 9.26pm on Monday night.Watch footage from the rescue here:
“The group were caught out by a rising tide,” said Dover RNLI Coxswain, Mark Finnis.
“Thankfully the quick and well co-ordinated search and rescue response meant all 36 casualties were rescued and were lucky to escape without serious injuries, but they've had a traumatic experience.”
In an interview with BBC London, Mr Finnis said that the episode could have “ended up a whole lot worse".
He added: "None of the people we took on board our lifeboat were dressed in any attire that you would associate with clambering over rocks."
Photographs taken at the time show the pupils and adults dressed in traditional strictly Orthodox attire, including kippot, long black coats and white shirts.Members of group called the Shomrim volunteer security group while they were stranded. Chaim Hochhauser, supervisor at Stamford Hill Shomrim, said: "Volunteers from Stamford Hill Shomrim were called by a group of people stranded near the Dover Cliffs as night was falling. Several Shomrim volunteers drove down from London to support the group and liaised with parents and families throughout the incident which thankfully ended well, thanks to the great work by RNLI and HM Coastguard."
The all-weather lifeboat from Dover RNLI and both inshore lifeboats from Walmer RNLI were launched to take part in the search and rescue operation, alongside the Langdon Coastguard Rescue Team and the Coastguard search and rescue helicopter.
Volunteer crew members from Walmer RNLI were the first on scene and quickly located the party. The D class lifeboat manoeuvred close to shore and started transporting the teenagers in small groups to the station’s larger Atlantic 85 lifeboat. The Atlantic 85 then safely transferred them to Dover RNLI’s all-weather lifeboat.
With four boys unaccounted for, the crew of Walmer’s Atlantic 85 started to search along the cliffside towards Dover. The crew quickly located the missing teenagers on the rocks after helmsman Andrew heard them shouting.
Mr Coe said: “This was a great team effort between our three lifeboats at Walmer and Dover RNLI.”
All 36 casualties were safely transported back to Dover lifeboat station; 31 people by the all-weather lifeboat and five people by the Coastguard helicopter. All casualties were assessed by the South East Coast Ambulance Service (SECAMB) and fortunately none required hospital treatment.
The Maritime and Coastguard Agency said the group was advised to use the lights from their phones to aid the search for them.
"The group was located by one of the Walmer lifeboats in the area of active cliff falls and also spotted by a helicopter using the forward-looking infra red camera," said Richard Cockerill, UK Coastguard's senior maritime operations officer.
All members were accounted for by 11pm and were "safe and well".
"Thankfully, the quick and well co-ordinated search and rescue response meant all 36 were rescued and were lucky to escape without serious injuries, but they've had a traumatic experience," Mr Finnis said.
James Salmon, the Deputy Launching Authority at Dover lifeboat station, said: “As we approach the summer with lighter evenings, this incident highlights how easy it can be to get cut off by the tide whilst out walking. The group also faced the dangers of cliff falls along this iconic stretch of coastline.
“Surprisingly, the biggest risk when enjoying our coastline can be activities such as coastal walking and running. It’s easy to get caught out by unexpected tides and waves. We encourage people to keep themselves safe and treat water with respect by staying away from cliff edges and areas prone to cliff falls, sticking to marked paths and checking local hazards and safety information, such as tide times, before setting out.”