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Byline: Rod Minchin ; Ryan Hooper

A MAJOR search operation was under way last night for a young woman holidaying with her family after 400 tonnes of rock fell on top of her during a landslide on a beach.

Emergency services believe the heavy rain over the last few weeks combined with the recent heatwave caused the landslip near a holiday resort in Dorset.

Despite the size of the landslide, emergency services believe the woman - who is in her 20s - could still be alive.

It thought she was on the beach with her family when the rock fall happened just before 12.30pm yesterday.

It occurred just 400 yards from the Freshwater Beach Holiday Park at Burton Bradstock, near Bridport. Police, the fire service, ambulance service and the coastguard were dealing with the incident.

Group manager Mick Stead, of Dorset Fire and Rescue, said at a press conference at the holiday park: "It was a significant collapse, probably around 400 tonnes and that covers an area of 20 metres.

"There is also a danger from the cliffs either side.

"We do have confirmation that one person has been caught in the landslip.

"We have a good indication from eye-witnesses and we are using specialist equipment to determine their exact location and we'll put in a plan to carry out that rescue."

Mr Stead said the emergency services were using dogs and specialist listening devices to try to locate the trapped woman but there were fears of further rock falls.

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

Mr Stead maintained that the operation was still a "search and rescue" rather than a "search and recover" and insisted the woman could still be alive.

"There is always a possibility and that is a possibility we work on," he said.

"It was a fairly traumatic experience for those that were close by and the police have been speaking to those people."

Mr Stead explained that the recent weather was the likely trigger for the landslide at the 160ft-high cliffs, which created a 60ft-high pile of rock on the beach.

"We have had a period of intense heavy rain followed by a dry spell," he said. "Certainly, as a precautionary measure the local resilience forum is starting to put measures in place to warn and inform the public of the risk from Lyme Regis to further down the coast at Bradstock."

The incident comes two weeks after Somerset couple Rosemary Snell, 67, and Michael Rolfe, 72, were killed in a landslide at the Beaminster Tunnel just nine miles away.


SCENE: Rescuers work at the cliff near Burton Bradstock and group manager Mick Stead, inset.
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Publication:Coventry Evening Telegraph (England)
Date:Jul 25, 2012
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