Body found after beach landslide25/07/2012 - 00:41:35
Emergency workers searching for a young woman reported missing following a landslide at a beach in Dorset have discovered a body, police said today.
Search crews had been hunting for the woman after 400 tonnes of rock fell on top of her as she sat on Burton Bradstock beach with her family yesterday afternoon.
Dorset Police confirmed the body of a 22-year-old was located at around 9.40pm.
Next of kin have been informed and the search operation has been stood down, the force added.
A Dorset Police spokesman said: ``At approximately 9.40pm on Tuesday July 24, search crews located a body on Burton Bradstock beach.
“The body is believed to be that of a 22-year-old woman reported missing earlier in the day following a landslide at the location.
“Next of kin are aware and family liaison officers are supporting the family. The coroner has been informed.”
The spokeswoman added: “At this time there are no further reports of missing people at the location and the search operation will now be stood down.
“It is believed the incident was a tragic accident and our thoughts are with the family of the victim at this very difficult time.”
Police, the fire service, ambulance service and the coastguard were all called to deal with yesterday’s landslide, which hit at around 12.30pm just 400 yards from the Freshwater Beach Holiday Park.
It thought the missing woman was on the beach with her family and scores of other revellers who were enjoying the hottest day of the year so far.
Emergency services believe the heavy rain over the last few weeks combined with the recent heatwave caused the landslip.
The area's local resilience forum has warned residents and people visiting west Dorset to avoid cliffs and beaches with a cliff backdrop following yesterday's incident.
Speaking about the landslip, group manager Mick Stead, of Dorset Fire and Rescue, said: “It was a significant collapse, probably around 400 tonnes and that covers an area of 20m.”
Mr Stead explained that the recent weather was the likely trigger for the landslide at the 160ft-high cliffs, which created a 60ft-high pile of rock on the beach.
Witness Len Muggeridge said he was fishing off Burton Rocks when he heard “a large thunder-like sound”.
“We looked up and half of the cliff towards Freshwater had fallen down,” he told Sky News.
“Within 20 minutes there were people tramping over the top of it and then a second fall occurred.
“I would say somewhere in the region of about 30 or 40 tonnes of rock fell in the first fall and somewhere in the region of about 100 tonnes or more in the second fall.”
Mr Muggeridge said there had been two or three big falls over the last 15 years and regular smaller falls.
“That cliff could come down at any time,” he said.
“It’s very unfortunate. There are warning signs at both ends of the beach. There are warning signs at Freshwater and numerous warning signs at Burton.
“All the locals will tell other people to be careful of the cliffs because there is a chance, even when you are fishing there, a lump of cliff could actually come down.”
Search crews used dogs and specialist listening devices to try to locate the missing woman amid fears of further rock falls at the site, which is known locally as Hive Beach.
But around nine hours after the search operation was launched, the worse fears of emergency workers were realised.
The beach forms part of the historic Jurassic Coast, from Swanage in Dorset to Exmouth in Devon, sections of which have been crumbling into the sea for years.
Last week, Dorset Council issued a warning to visitors and walkers of the risk of landslides, following the heavy rain.
The council said the western end of the Esplanade at West Bay, near Burton Bradstock, was closed at the weekend “due to concerns about continuing land stability in the area following the exceptional wet weather”.
The council, posting on its website on June 20, said it had found large overhanging rocks at the top of the cliff at the western end of West Bay Esplanade, which appeared “ready to fall”.
A National Trust spokesman said: “Our thoughts are with all those involved in this tragic accident.
“Coastlines are dynamic and changing environments and it is impossible to predict when these kinds of events might occur.
“National Trust land at Burton Bradstock will remain closed whilst we assist the emergency services in whatever way we can.”
The tragedy comes two weeks after Somerset couple Rosemary Snell, 67, and Michael Rolfe, 72, were killed in a landslide at the Beaminster Tunnel just nine miles away.
The area was also hit by severe flooding left much of the community under water.
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