Warnings ignored after Jurassic Coast cliff collapse

A child climbing on a collapsed section of cliff
Image caption Children were seen playing below the cliffs after police warned people not to stand underneath them

Sightseers have been seen clambering over rocks where a section of cliff collapsed, despite warnings from emergency services to stay away.

The rock fall happened on the East Cliff section of West Bay on Dorset's Jurassic Coast on Tuesday evening.

No-one was hurt but coastguards and police urged people to stay away from the top and bottom of the cliff.

In 2012, tourist Charlotte Blackman died at nearby Hive Beach when she was buried under a rock fall.

A specialist urban response team and dog unit searched the area of the latest collapse but coastguards said there was no evidence anyone was trapped.

The beach and South West Coast Path, which has been assessed by Dorset County Council's coast and countryside service, remain open.

The authority said the Jurassic Coast World Heritage Site team, West Bay Harbour Master and the landowner, Freshwater Beach Holiday Park, had carried out a survey to assess the fall and the stability of the cliff.

The rock fall follows a previous one in the same area in July.

Image caption People were on the beach at the time of the cliff fall

Sam Scriven, Jurassic Coast earth science manager, said: "Rock falls like this are entirely unpredictable.

"However, East Cliff at West Bay does seem to be particularly active at the moment."

He added: "Landslides and rock falls can, and do, happen at any time - and you can be at risk even at low tide."

Coastguard duty controller Peter Davies urged people to stay away and said: "Last night's cliff fall is an example of just how unstable cliff edges can be.

"The incident could have had a very different outcome, and fortunately no-one was seriously hurt or worse."

Ch Insp Steve White of Dorset Police warned further rock falls could occur.

He said: "We urge the public to obey warning signs, not to stand near the edge of cliffs or stand directly underneath them."

Gem Gilbert, who photographed the landslip, said on Twitter: "Cute evening down the beach chilling, next thing you know part of the Clift [sic] had fallen down."

Police initially said some people suffered minor injuries but since confirmed no-one was hurt.

Coastguards said an infra-red helicopter search was completed but the warm temperature of the rocks meant it was inconclusive.

Image copyright James Loveridge Photography
Image caption A section of the cliff at West Bay collapsed on East Beach last month

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