A YOUNG girl shudders in fear as the waves of Storm Katie crash around her knees.

Stood perilously close to serious injury, she was being baptised on Brighton beach as 10ft high waves crashed around her.

She huddled to a pastor as the giant waves loomed on the horizon and the unpredictable surf swept around her, sparking warnings that the Easter Monday ceremony could have ended in tragedy.

Another youngster clutched the long white robes as they looked tentatively out to sea.

The ceremony - performed by an evangelical group from outside Sussex - has been branded highly dangerous amid fears lives could easily have been lost.

Lifeguards had to step in to warn the group not to dunk participants in the water and keep children away from the water's edge during the ceremony near Black Rock, fearing it could have ended in a tragedy.

Witnesses described seeing at least three children baptised during the ceremony.

Brighton and Hove City Council's seafront manager Chris Ingall said: "Once you go in you aren't coming out of that sea on days like Monday.

"It is completely unforgiving and very difficult to get out of the water."

Seafront officers and Brighton lifeboat station were made aware of the potentially deadly situation near Black Rock at about midday on Monday.

Mr Ingall added: "We were out about on patrols and one of my colleagues spotted them on a very dangerous bit of beach at Black Rock.

"These ceremonies do happen fairly regularly, but when people come down here from further away without any understanding of the dangers on the beach they do put themselves at risk.

"Even I would have been uncomfortable going in the water in a wet suit and with 30 years experience in those conditions.

"It's a scary concept.

"There were people of all ages including children.

"We were very fortunate that this didn't develop into a much more serious situation.

"We got them to move up the beach and further out of the water and stopped them from dunking right in the water.

A spokesman for Brighton Lifeboat station said: "Our message certainly would be that this is not a sensible idea."

Photographer James Taylor watched the group for about half an hour.

He said: "You could see the kids were clinging on to him.

"They were clearly really scared.

"The first thing I saw as I came along the beach was a big group of people in white robes, so I went to have a closer look.

"There was some really fanatical behaviour - ladies talking in tongues and then people wading into the water to be baptised.

"At the time I was just snapping pictures, put when you look at the pictures in hindsight you can see just how close to serious injury or death they could have been."

At around the same time Newhaven Coastguard issued a warning after three children were seen playing near the waters' edge at West Beach.