A landslide which destroyed a shop left a 96-year-old man trapped inside as the foul weather continues to batter the coast.
Emergency services from across Sussex were called to White Rock in Hastings at 12.27pm after rock fall had caused the back of a shop to collapse leaving the pensioner trapped.
The man, who lives in the maisonette at the rear of the shop, was in a garage or workshop which is embedded in the rocks at the back of the property and had to be freed by firefighters.
When firefighters arrived, instant commander Paul Way form East Sussex Fire and Rescue feared the worse, but thankfully the elderly man had a whistle in his pocket which drew his attention.
Mr Way said: “It’s all weather related.
“These rocks probably scale up to 120ft above the garage or workshop that he was in, so when we arrived it really didn’t look good.
“Thankfully he had a whistle in his pocket, so we knew he was there.
“The family were aware that he was in there and after people heard some crashing and banging we had a good idea of where he was when we turned up where he was.
“The biggest concern for us was further rock fall and structural damage and the immediate danger it put our officers under.
“The first thing we did was close White Rock Road about the property to make sure it didn’t cause any further landslides.
“We then carried out an evacuation of everyone within ten metres of the affected area.
“Then it was a case of rescuing the man, but because he was quite deaf, we had to use the Aerial Ladder Platform to get a view from above to see what could be done.”
Because the circumstances were so rare, Mr Way was in dialogue with a number of experts from the borough council and the ambulance service to assess the dangers as well as national specialist rescue teams.
The closest specialist team were on their way down from Essex, but Mr Way made the brave decision to go ahead with the rescue due to fears for the man’s potential deteriorating health in the wet and cold weather.
He added: “It was a fantastic result [to free him without injury] because it really was not looking good when we got there.”
The occupants of nearby properties were also evacuated and Mr Way said it was unlikely they would be able to return any time soon.
He said: “With the wet weather, driving conditions continue to be hazardous and we would remind the public to be vigilant as some buildings and structures may become unstable.”
No other injuries have been reported and the A259 remains closed.
Inspector Lee Lyons from Sussex Police said: "Thankfully, this gentleman was in the right place at the right time as far as being in the shop was concerned.
“He was cut off by the rock fall, but was able to talk to colleagues from the fire service who had to work very carefully to free him due to the risk of further collapse of the building or more rock falls.
“They were successful in doing this after a couple of hours and he emerged safe and well.
"A structural engineer has now visited the site and is concerned about the safety of four of the buildings in the area, so they are being cordoned off in order that further examination can take place.
“It is likely that there will be local disruption to traffic and pedestrians in the area while this takes place."