Don’t set off Chinese lanterns

Chinese lanterns confused with red distress flares.

In an urgent release yesterday the NSRI appealed to the public not to set off Chinese Lanterns.

In the past week NSRI volunteers from several sea rescue stations in South Africa have been called out unnecessarily to investigate distress flares. But these were false alarms as the NSRi found that the red lights were only from Chinese lanterns.

The NSRI says Chinese Lanterns, once airborne and floating through the sky are often mistaken by eye-witnesses as red distress flares.  The NSRI strongly believes that, based on the potential risks that Chinese lanterns pose and on the number of false alarms the NSRI responds to, the practice of setting off Chinese lanterns into the sky is irresponsible behaviour.

Last week, on the Vaal Dam, a party group intended to set off 100 Chinese Lanterns into the air but agreed to stop following an appeal by the local NSRI. Later that night calls were received by eye-witnesses reporting red distress flares in the Deneysville area. Upon investigation they were found to have been Chinese Lanterns but no one in the vicinity admitted to setting off the Chinese Lanterns.

Last night at 8.30 NSRI Knysna was activated following reports of red distress flares sighted. During a search operation it was discovered the sightings were in fact Chinese Lanterns floating airborne over in the vicinity of the Knysna coastline.

Later last night at 9.30 pm ,NSRI Simonstown were activated following reports from eye-witnesses of multiple red distress flares sighted in the Fish Hoek bay. Fearing a boat and persons to be in dire danger a full scale emergency response was activated.

During a search operation it was discovered that the red distress flares were in fact mistaken and that the culprit was Chinese Lanterns. The source of where they came from could not be determined.

Once Chinese Lanterns are set off they are usually abandoned by the people setting them off and are seldom, if ever, followed by their owners to be properly disposed of wherever they land. It is difficult to predict what they will do or where they will go once set off as they are at the mercy of the elements of the weather and wind conditions.

Chinese Lanterns are considered a fire hazard. They can be caught in the wind and land in trees or dry grass fields or on buildings while they are still burning.

It has also been debated, in some circles, that they may pose a threat to aviation once sent airborne. Also wire-frame Chinese Lanterns have been found on occasion to have ensnared small animals and birds sometimes long after they have been left abandoned wherever they land.

Chinese Lanterns appear to be set off (into the sky) to mark occasions such as weddings, birthdays or special moments. They are made out of a balsa wood or thin wire frame, a paper shell and a candle 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 ballon) until the candle burns out and then the structure falls to the ground.

Chinese Lanterns were (literally) made famous by the film Beach starring Leonardo Di Caprio and have also been depicted in the animated film Tangled.

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