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Cliffs landslide warning along Sussex coast
12:10pm Thursday 26th July 2012 in News
Sussex's cliffs could be at risk of a deadly landslide, experts have warned.
The warning comes after a woman was killed beneath falling cliffs in Dorset.
Geologists are urging walkers to be extra-vigilant amid fears that Sussex’s weak chalk cliffs could also give way. The Coastguard has also warned walkers to be careful walking beneath cliffs.
Dr John Barlow, lecturer in applied geomorphology at the University of Sussex , said: “The factor that has the largest impact on cliff stability is storm waves.
“With thousands of tons of waves repeatedly battering the coastline, something has got to give. And we have had a number of storms over the past few months. The other major factor is rainfall. The continued rain has saturated the ground and this will impact the stability of the cliffs.”
He added that sandstone and chalk cliffs, which make up the majority of the Sussex coastline, are the most susceptible to erosion.
Dr Helen Reeves, head of science at the British Geological Survey, said that they have seen an unseasonably large number of “disruptive landslides”.
She added: “We usually see incidents like this during the winter months because of the higher seas and bad weather.
“There are so many factors that we cannot predict where or when landslides will happen, but the contributing factors are certainly all there.
“It is important to notify the local authorities if you spot any recently fallen debris or cracks in the cliffs.
“I would also urge walkers to keep a safe distance from the edge of cliffs.”
Dr Barlow added that the cliffs at Birling Gap were the most susceptible to erosion in Sussex.
The Coastguard warned dog-walkers to keep their pets on leads near cliff edges.
A spokesman added: “The gradient at which cliffs fall away from the paths can be deceptive and following on from the prolonged period of wet weather some cliff edges may be slippery or unstable.”
Councillor Pete West , chair of Brighton and Hove’s environment committee, said that the city’s cliffs were unlike those in Dorset as they are defended by a sea wall.
However, he said that the authority was in the process of rerunning a risk assessment.
Charlotte Blackman, 22, from Derbyshire, was crushed to death by falling cliffs as she walked along a beach near Bridport on Tuesday, July 24.
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