A MAJOR four-hour rescue operation was launched after six people became stuck in the mud as the tide came in at Barton beach.
Three coastguard crews, firefighters from Hampshire and Dorset, paramedics and police responded to the emergency which took place on the mud flats below Hoburne Naish holiday park on Saturday evening.
The alarm was raised just after 5pm by a member of the public who reported seeing one person stuck waist-deep in mud.
However, when the rescuers arrived at the scene, they found even more people had become trapped while attempting to help.
Three out of the six people stuck needed to be dug out of the mud. Coastguard teams from Lymington, Southbourne and Poole set to work.
With the casualties reported to be “stuck fast” and the team quickly tiring from its endeavours, help was requested from the fire service around 6.15pm.
New Milton crews attended, along with mud rescue specialists from Poole fire station, by which time the coastguards had managed to dig one person free.
The remaining two people were released after a total of over three hours. A Maritime and Coastguard Agency spokesperson said all of them were safe and well.
They were all assessed by paramedics due to what was described by a Poole Coastguard spokesperson as “the effects of the pressure on the legs”.
It is understood that at least some of them were taken by ambulance to hospital for further treatment.
The incident has prompted a warning to walkers to take extra care on the beach at Barton as the casualties had become stuck as they climbed the mudflats in a bid to escape the incoming tide.
A Southbourne Coastguard spokesperson said: “If you are visiting the area and go to this location please do not climb onto the mud flats as the conditions are very bad with deep mud pools and cliff slides.
“Also check the tides as you can also be cut off as these casualties were. This led them to climb the mud banks and get stuck.
“If you do get into difficulty please dial 999 and ask for the Coastguard.”
HM Coastguard duty controller Ben Hambling said advice for anyone stuck in mud includes staying calm, spreading body weight, avoiding moving, and calling the coastguard on 999.
He added: “If you see someone who has become stuck don’t try to rescue them yourself.
“Without specialist equipment you can easily become stuck too, which is exactly what happened here. Remember if you see anyone in difficulty at sea or along the coast call 999 and ask for the coastguard.”
Further mud safety advice can be found online at www.hmcoastguard.blogspot.com.