Landslip on Dorset coast: One trapped under rocks

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Media captionMike Stead, Dorset Fire Service: "We think that one person has been caught in the landslip"

One person is trapped on a beach after a landslip of hundreds of tonnes of rocks near a Dorset holiday park, sparking a major search effort.

Helicopters have been used to search the area around Freshwater Beach Holiday Park, near Bridport.

A person thought to be a 22-year-old woman is trapped in the landslip, a Dorset fire service spokesman said.

Rescue teams are continuing to search the 10m-high pile of rocks using specialist equipment.

The stretch of coastline where the landslip occurred is known locally as Hive Beach.

'Pretty dramatic'

Mick Stead, group manager of Dorset Fire and Rescue Service, said they were still in the "rescue phase" of the operation following the landslip, which happened at about 12:30 BST.

He said eyewitness accounts had led them to search a specific area of the landslide.

"The situation is obviously very dangerous and we are conscious there is a real risk to emergency service personnel as well."

A sniffer dog and specialist listening equipment are being used in the search, he said.

Image caption The landslide happened early in the afternoon

Urban Search and Rescue (USAR) from Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service are also at the scene.

Mr Stead said: "Search-and-rescue operations will continue into the evening, resources on scene will allow us to work during the night."

The beach and coastal path have been closed and members of the public have been asked to stay away from the area.

Local cafe owner Graham Wiffen said: "It seems to be a large chunk that's come down - it is a pretty dramatic landslide this time around."

Mr Wiffen said emergency services had restricted access to the beach.

Three Coastguard rescue teams and a helicopter based in Portland are at the scene in Lyme Bay.

A Maritime and Coastguard Agency spokeswoman said: "Portland Coastguard received a report of a landslide between Freshwater and Burton Bradstock at just before 12.30pm.

"The landslide was reported to be 400m from Freshwater caravan park and the caller reported that a person was trapped under the fallen rocks.

"West Bay, Lyme and Wyke Coastguard Rescue Teams and their managers are currently on scene with the Coastguard rescue helicopter based in Portland.

"They are working with Dorset Police, Dorset Fire and Rescue Service, South Western Ambulance Service and the lifeboat from Lyme Regis to search for those who may be trapped and to keep the public away from the area surrounding the landslide."

Police have closed all coast paths and beaches between Lyme Regis and West Bexington while geological studies are carried out.

Eyewitness Liz Rice said: "We just saw a huge cloud of yellow dust from the cliff.

"Clearly the some of the cliff had fallen onto the beach and with 20 minutes the emergency services had arrived."

'Helicopters circling'

Emily Maylon-Roberts, who was swimming nearby, said: "I didn't see or hear anything at the time but the sea became choppy and the waves got bigger - this could have been a result of the landslide.

"When we got out of the water we saw two helicopters circling above and two police cars come towards the beach."

A spokesman for the landowners, the National Trust, 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."

The incident comes two weeks after Somerset couple Rosemary Snell and Michael Rolfe were killed in a landslide, nine miles away at the Beaminster Tunnel.

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 persistent heavy rain.

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