When you think of a beach, the last thing that should come to mind is suffocation. Assuming you’re not underwater, a day at the beach should, by all reasonable expectations, be the definition of “getting some fresh air.” The last thing you should have to worry about is suddenly gasping and struggling to breathe. Yet that’s exactly what what happened to a beach full of people in Essex, UK this week, during a mysterious incident that, so far, has no official explanation.
According to the Independent, emergency personnel were called to the beach at around 2 PM on Sunday, after reports that a large number of people suddenly began coughing, wheezing, and generally having difficulty breathing.
Miram Lansdell, 45, of Derbyshire, was at the beach with her family. She says her twin 10-year-old daughters were hit with the mystery affliction as they were getting out of the water. Lansdell says:
“My daughter started coughing. She said ‘I don’t feel good. It hurts to breathe in’. My other daughter was gasping and couldn’t form words because she couldn’t breathe well enough.”
Miriam Lansdell says she too began to feel pain and tightness in her chest after drying off from from a swim in the water.
Although there is no official explanation yet, there are rumors that a fuel spill of some sort is to blame. Miriam Lansdell says her father was told this directly as he was swimming. She says:
“My dad said he had been asked to get out of the water by a man on a boat. He asked why and the man said there had been a fuel spill. He said if anyone is having breathing difficulties they should probably call an ambulance.”
The official response from police and ambulance services has not acknowledged such a fuel spill, however. A spokeswoman for East of England Ambulance Service said:
“We are aware of an incident on Sunday 25 August with reports of a number of people suffering from coughing on the seafront off Fourth Avenue, Frinton. We are assisting the police and fire services with this incident. The cause is currently unknown.”
Good lord. It looks like there are two explanations for what’s going on here: either there’s a completely unknown something that’s messing with the respiratory systems of beachgoers; or there was an extremely serious fuel spill that’s messing with the respiratory systems of beachgoers and officials won’t admit it. Both are equally distressing.
The police say that they are currently conducting an investigation, and perhaps even if they do know what the cause is they can’t yet acknowledge it until the investigation is settled. Hopefully they do get to the bottom of this because there’s only so much summer left, and on top of everything else we don’t need to be scared of beaches too.