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Chinese lanterns cause confusion

Chinese lanterns. Library image
Chinese lanterns. Library image

Strange lights in the sky have been mistaken for distress flares and even UFOs.

The lights have been spotted in the skies all over Kent. On Saturday, some were spotted in the Larkfield area and some seen off the Kent coast sparked calls to the emergency services by worried onlookers.

They aren't thought to be distress flares or UFOs but Chinese lanterns, which are growing in popularity at parties.

The paper lanterns carry a small flame which allow them to float slowly upwards.

Hundreds were released off Thanet on Saturday night and several people contacted the emergency services thinking they were distress calls from people in trouble at sea.

The Coastguard is urging those planning to release the lanterns to get in touch in advance to avoid wasting emergency resources.

Peter Legg, senior watch manager at Dover Coastguard, said: "To people who are not familiar with the coast then it would look as if it is somebody in distress.

"All of these things we have to investigate and sometimes we send out lifeboats, helicopters or aircraft if it is something we think more serious."

Lives could be put at risk if there happens to be real emergency elsewhere.

Mr Legg said the problem is becoming a regular occurrence. "It only started in the last couple of years - but this summer it appears to be more frequent, particularly in the last fortnight with the good weather we have had."

Dating back to the third century Century, Chinese lanterns are intended to bring good luck and prosperity.

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