Page last updated at 16:36 GMT, Wednesday, 7 May 2008 17:36 UK

Landslip is 'worst in 100 years'


Aerial footage of the landslip on the heritage coastline

A landslip described as "the worst for 100 years" has destroyed more than 400 metres (1,312 ft) of Dorset's World Heritage Jurassic Coast.

The earth movement blocked a stretch of beach between Lyme Regis and Charmouth at 2031 BST on Tuesday.

A Coastguard spokeswoman said the site was "still rumbling" when crews left for the night. It was too dark to see but work resumed at first light.

Boulders "the size of cars" are still at risk of falling onto the beach.

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.

There's a risk of rocks coming down - the size of car engines, possibly the size of cars
Richard Edmonds
Jurassic Coast World Heritage Centre

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

Brian Thornber, whose property is just a few hundred metres from the landslide, said he feared for his home.

"It's worrying in the background but there's nothing we can do personally to stop it," he said.

"We're just praying that the government will provide some money so that west Dorset and the contractors can carry out the full stabilisation."

Portland Coastguard was alerted to the landslide after several 999 calls on Tuesday night.

Police said it was the "worst landslide for 100 years".

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

The area affected, about the length of four football pitches, is still very unstable.

"It's a very, very popular fossiling area, so our main concern is to keep members of the public away because it's such a big landslip - it's the biggest they've seen," a Portland Coastguard spokeswoman said.

Richard Edmonds, earth science manager at the Jurassic Coast World Heritage Centre, said the landslide was part of a "natural process".

He added that white goods including fridges had appeared on the beach, possibly from a former landfill site at the top of the cliffs.

"Landslips are quite frequent here but the one we've had this morning is really quite big in comparison, really quite spectacular.

"It just happened that this is a particularly large landslip - the last big one was probably 1986. "There's a risk of rocks coming down - the size of car engines, possibly the size of cars."

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

Map of the Jurassic Coast

He said the debris would be broken up naturally and that the "sea will do all the work for us".

He added that once the area was safe, people would be able to hunt for fossils.

"Once they've fallen out of the cliff, they'll only get smashed up by the sea," he added.

Lyme Regis is built on a particularly unstable stretch of coastline and previous smaller landslips have exposed fossils on the beaches.

The coastline has seen numerous stabilisation projects in the past to stop it from crumbling into the sea.

In February, a consultation began with residents for a new 21m scheme that would have included a new sea wall on the eastern side of the town.

West Dorset District Council has already carried out two major schemes to protect and stabilise the town.

Views on landslip scheme sought
03 Feb 08 |  Dorset
French sand for landslip scheme
16 May 06 |  Dorset


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