There is an overwhelming and deep-seated human desire when disaster strikes or exceptional situations erupt, to want to go and watch. It’s why drivers slow down on motorways to ‘rubber-neck’ at crashes, why folk gather outside blazing buildings and why, when the waves crash to shore and the wind howls, some feel the urge to get out there and experience it.
How easy it is, however, for natural curiosity to turn to disaster. Two deaths in the past few days illustrate that the power of the sea, during the kind of storms we are experiencing this winter, can snatch a life as easily as blinking. One minute you are enjoying the sensation of being at one with the elements, the next you are gone.
Even the most sensible individual taking care to stay safe can fall victim to bad weather. Those whose job it is to go out and keep the rest of us safe sometimes lose their lives – and they are generally well-equipped, properly trained and closely monitored. So how much more likely is it that the unwary, the unfit and the very young will be snatched from a sea wall by a crashing wave; pulled from the beach by a fierce undertow or be dragged away by a fast flowing river? That is why the advice, from police, coastguards, the Environment Agency and other emergency services has been so precise and unrelenting over the past 48 hours – don’t go near the water.
Yet people don’t seem to get the message. Families with small children have been photographed playing ‘chicken’ with the waves; teenagers egg each other on to go ever closer to the crashing surf; some revellers even head into the water as it surges and spills like a giant washing machine. They are risking their lives, the lives of those that are with them and the lives of the rescuers – official and unofficial – who might decide to go to their aid if they come to grief. The fact that the majority of those that run along a harbour wall as the next big wave surges in get away with it, doesn’t justify such stupidity. The advice to stay safe might seem over-the-top but it is anything but.
There are plenty of hazards in everyday life. We don’t need to go looking for more. Accidents can happen even when we are not taking unnecessary risks. But they are a great deal more likely
if we blatantly ignore the advice and put not only ourselves but others at risk.
We don’t need a nanny state telling us what to do. But please, show a bit of
common sense as the wind and rain continues.