Page last updated at 12:17 GMT, Thursday, 8 May 2008 13:17 UK

'Worst' landslip exposes landfill


Aerial footage of the landslip on the heritage coastline

People have been warned to stay away from a landslide in Dorset described as "the worst for 100 years" after it exposed part of a disused landfill.

About 400 metres (1,312 ft) of cliff slipped on Tuesday night blocking a beach between Lyme Regis and Charmouth on the World Heritage Jurassic Coast.

The county council believes that potentially hazardous materials could have been exposed at the site.

There have been reports of white goods being spotted in the earth movement.

The council says that more slips on the cliff near Lyme Regis are possible.

The landslide at Lyme Regis
The Jurassic coast is a very popular fossiling area

A multi-agency group including Dorset County Council, West Dorset District Council, Dorset Police, Dorset Fire and Rescue and the Environment Agency, met on Thursday morning to discuss how the incident would be managed.

Simon Parker, the county council's emergency planning officer, said: "There are very real physical dangers at the site.

"There could be a quicksand effect if anyone tried to climb onto the slip and it would be very easy to become trapped.

"Added to that is the risk of falling rocks and earth, as well as items being released from the old landfill site."

Warning signs are being erected on each side of the site.

'Boulders the size of cars'

It has not yet been possible to identify what materials are in the former landfill, which closed in the 1970s and was unlicensed.

Mr Parker said a lot of burning was conducted at the site and it was likely that mostly metals and glass remained.

He added it would be at least another week before the area would be considered safe enough for the Environment Agency to gain access.

The landslide at Lyme Regis
Boulders "the size of cars" are at risk of falling from the cliffs

Richard Edmonds, earth science manager at the Jurassic Coast World Heritage Centre warned the whole area was unstable, and that boulders "the size of cars" were at risk of falling onto the beach.

He added, however, that the worst of it was over.

The earth movement - the length of four football pitches - blocked a stretch of beach between Lyme Regis and Charmouth.

Police described it as "the worst for 100 years".

The area is part of 95 miles (153 km) of Dorset and east Devon known as the Jurassic Coast, with rocks recording 185 million years of the earth's history.

It was England's first natural Unesco (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation) World Heritage Site.

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