Do not set off Chinese lanterns, NSRI pleads

Cape Town - The National Sea Rescue Institute is appealing to the public not to set off Chinese lanterns as they look like distress flares.

This after the NSRI in Bakoven around Cape Town responded to eye-witness accounts of eight distress flares fired in succession on Sunday morning.

NSRI spokesperson Craig Lambinon said spotters were dispatched to Bantry Bay to investigate and interview eye-witnesses and it was confirmed that the “flares” were Chinese lanterns.

“It remains unknown who set off these Chinese lanterns in that area or for what reason,” he said.

The NSRI were still continuing to monitor the situation to rule out any possibilities of emergencies, he said.

The NSRI previously said on its website that these lanterns, which are also called sky lanterns, "are very beautiful when they float away on a gentle breeze, bright yellow against a dark sky".

"Some wedding planners are suggesting that they would enhance a couple’s special day, making the event one to remember, but if you think about them carefully, you will agree they are a hazard in every way," it said.

"When they float out to sea they are often reported as emergency flares and cause sea rescue hours of fruitless searching. There is no way that they cannot search… unless witnesses can be found who are 100% sure that the reported “flare” was a sky lantern and definitely not a flare.

"Should the lantern float inland and come down before the fuel block is completely extinguished, it could cause a fire which could easily destroy property and perhaps lives," the NSRI said.

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