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Lapland police report busy summer rescuing lost berry pickers

Dozens of missing person reports have been filed so far this summer, with Oulu police still searching for one person.

Hilla, jänkä, hillasuo, muurain, lakka
A strong berry crop this year is attracting people to Finland's forests and swamps. Image: Tiinamaija Rantamartti / Yle

Police in the Lapland and Oulu areas of northern Finland have reported a rise this summer in the number of people getting lost while picking berries.

According to the newspaper Lapin Kansa, 85 people have been reported as missing to Lapland police in the region so far this month after getting into difficulties while berry picking in forests and swamps.

"More cloudberry pickers disappear than other berry pickers. Cloudberries grow in areas that are more difficult to navigate, and when walking in swamps, it is easier for a person to become disoriented and forget their return route," Lapland Police Chief Constable Jari Seppälä said, adding that the gathering of cloudberries can also lead to people getting stuck in the soft ground.

Most of the missing people were located and rescued, but police are still searching for one person in the Oulu area.

When people are reported missing, Seppälä added that the police use all means possible to ensure they are found as quickly as possible.

"In addition to personnel, the search for berry pickers has involved dogs as well as technical aids, such as drones. The police have also been assisted by the Border Guard with helicopters, a voluntary rescue service and the Finnish Air Rescue Society," Seppälä said.

Police in eastern Finland await busy period

According to the Eastern Finland Police Department, their busiest period for dealing with the disappearance of berry pickers is still ahead. Ten people got lost in the terrain during the first half of July in the region.

"Of these, only isolated cases are related to berry picking," said Commissioner Ilpo Kortelainen from the Eastern Finland Police Department. "There are no large hills in Eastern Finland, which means that more berry pickers will be lost in forests later in the autumn, when it comes time to pick lingonberries, blueberries and mushrooms."

According to police, many of the people who have disappeared into the forests so far have reported themselves lost.

"It is important to remember when you notice that you have become lost, you should immediately call the emergency number 112. The search becomes much more difficult if a person treks further into the forest until they are exhausted," Police Sergeant Arto Tynkkynen advised, adding that as well as carrying drinks and snacks, it is important that people have a phone with sufficient battery remaining.

Tynkkynen also recommended that people download the 112 application to their mobile phone, as that can be useful in the search for a missing person.

"The application installed on the phone speeds up searches considerably," Tynkkynen added.

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