Thousands of people ignored warnings from health experts, flocking to the beaches in the United Kingdom on the hottest day of the year so far. Officials in several towns have now declared a "major incident" and called on the government for help.
Temperatures surged past 30 degrees Celsius, or 86 degrees Fahrenheit, in England on Thursday — a major heatwave for the region. The council that covers Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole on the country's southern coast activated a multi-agency emergency response to deal with the issue.
"We are absolutely appalled at the scenes witnessed on our beaches, particularly at Bournemouth and Sandbanks, in the last 24-48 hours," BCP Council Leader Vikki Slade said in a statement. "The irresponsible behavior and actions of so many people is just shocking and our services are stretched to the absolute hilt trying to keep everyone safe. We have had no choice now but to declare a major incident and initiate an emergency response."
According to the council, the large number of beachgoers completely drained local resources, leading to problems of illegal parking, excessive waste, gridlocked roads and behavior that defies social distancing.
BCP said it issued 558 parking fines — the highest on record — and it received numerous complaints of cars causing obstructions. There were also several incidents involving excessive alcohol and fights.
Officials said that workers attempting to clean the beaches faced "widespread abuse and intimidation."
The declaration of a major incident has allowed the council to pool the resources of several agencies in the region.
The council has brought in additional police officers to patrol the region, additional security, parking enforcement and signs to warn people that the area is at capacity.
All overnight campers have been evicted, and overnight camping is now temporarily prohibited.
"We are not in a position to welcome visitors in these numbers now or to deal with the full range of problems associated with managing volumes of people like this," Slade said. "PLEASE do not come. We are not able to welcome you yet."
"We are also reliant on people taking personal responsibility and strongly advise members of the public to think twice before heading to the area," said Assistant Chief Constable of Dorset Police Sam de Reya. "Clearly we are still in a public health crisis and such a significant volume of people heading to one area places a further strain on emergency services resources. "
Bournemouth East MP Tobias Ellwood tweeted Thursday that he asked the government to dispatch additional officers to Dorset, which he said saw half a million visitors.
Officials urged beachgoers to remember that the coronavirus pandemic is far from over. The U.K. has slowly eased some of its lockdown restrictions — the images of packed beaches come just one day after Prime Minister Boris Johnsonsocial distancing guidelines.
Johnson announced on Tuesday that lockdown restrictions will ease in England from July 4, with pubs, restaurants, hotels, libraries and hairdressers allowed to reopen. Some businesses, like bowling alleys, indoor gyms, and nail salons, will remain closed.