Don't use Chinese lanterns, public warned
Johannesburg - The National Sea Rescue Institute (NSRI) on Thursday appealed to the public not to light up Chinese lanterns as they could be mistaken as a call for help.
"Chinese lanterns, once airborne and floating through the sky, are often mistaken by eyewitnesses as red distress flares," the NSRI said in a statement.
The appeal follows an incident in Still Bay in the Western Cape on Wednesday night in which dozens of lanterns were set off from the beach.
"Multiple reports of red distress flares sighted were received by the emergency services only to be found, on investigation, to have been Chinese lanterns."
The NSRI said not only could the lanterns create alarm, they were also a fire hazard and had been known on occasion to ensnare animals in their wire frame.
Chinese lanterns are made out of a balsa wood or thin wire frame, a paper shell and a candle or burning device in the centre.
The candle is lit allowing the generation of heat to send the lantern skyward where it floats through the sky (similar to a hot air balloon) until the candle burns out and the structure falls to the ground.
"The practice of setting off Chinese lanterns into the sky is irresponsible behaviour and we are urgently appealing to the public to refrain from this practice," said the NSRI.