Walkers in Dorset have been warned about the risk of further landslides on the Jurassic Coast after part of a coastal path collapsed claiming the life of a 22-year-old woman.
Charlotte Blackman, from Derbyshire, was trapped by a 35ft-deep pile of rubble along with her boyfriend and his father shortly after 12.30pm yesterday, while they were out walking in Burton Bradstock.
The cliffs along the Dorset coastline have become severely unstable in recent weeks due to heavy rain followed by dry and sunny conditions, which have led to them cracking and crumbling away.
Mick Stead, from Dorset Fire and Rescue Service, said last night: ‘There was a significant landslip. About a 20-metre (60ft) stretch of the coastal path has given way. We estimate that about 400 tons of mud and rock has fallen from the top and down on to the beach.’
He said the recent weather was the likely trigger for the landslide.
The Jurassic Coast – named for its geology, which dates back 250 million years – stretches for 95 miles across Dorset and East Devon from Studland Bay to Exmouth.
Tourists and walkers flock to the region, a natural World Heritage Site, to experience a coastline that is famous for its stunning views and wealth of fossils.
The area’s website, www.jurassiccoast.com, is currently carrying a warning for residents and people visiting west Dorset to avoid cliffs and beaches with a cliff backdrop following yesterday’s incident.
The statement reads: ‘There is a heightened risk of rock falls anywhere and at any time along the coast while landslides have delivered thick mudflows and quicksands to the beaches in many places. One of the hidden hazards is that the sea can wash sand and shingle over the mud and quicksand giving the appearance of a solid beach which is why we advise people to stay well clear of these hazards’.
Last week, Dorset Council issued a similar warning to visitors and walkers of the risk of landslides following the heavy rain.
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’.
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’.
A National Trust spokesman said: ‘Coastlines are dynamic and changing environments and it is impossible to predict when these kinds of events might occur.