Page last updated at 11:35 GMT, Sunday, 5 July 2009 12:35 UK

Plea after Chinese lantern alerts

Chinese lantern (generic)
Chinese lanterns float away until they disintegrate

Coastguards have asked for advance warnings from people setting off Chinese lanterns following a spate of false alarms along the UK coastline.

The latest incident took place on Saturday night between Bexhill and Pevensey in East Sussex.

Dover Coastguard was called to a sighting reported as a "red flare", which is sent up by a boat in distress.

"It turned out that countless numbers of these lanterns had been released," said watch officer Phil Binks.

"They are being used more and more as part of beach barbecues."

A volunteer team was sent to investigate the incident.

"Volunteers have to drop everything and go to pick up a coastguard vehicle. These incidents are taking up valuable resources."

Another incident was also reported on Saturday in Tankerton, Kent.

The use of Chinese lanterns, which float off into the air until they disintegrate, is growing in popularity and they have been mistaken for UFOs.

The Maritime and Coastguard Agency said people should contact them first if they are taking Chinese lanterns to the beach at dusk.

"We do experience this problem with firework displays too and encourage organisers to inform us of their intentions so that we know the likely source of red flare sightings," said a spokesman.

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