A MAJOR search operation was launched following a massive cliff fall at Seaford Head.

Witnesses reported seeing clouds of chalk dust reach as high as the cliff tops after the drama yesterday afternoon.

It happened on one of the hottest days of the year with many people out enjoying the weather at nearby Seaford.

Emergency services received numerous phone calls shortly after 4pm.

Coastguard rescue teams from Newhaven and Birling Gap were joined by the search and rescue helicopter based at Lydd in Kent.

Teams from East Sussex Fire and Rescue Service also helped with the search.

However as The Argus went to press last night there were no reports of any people missing or any casualties.

The Maritime and Coastguard Agency said a large-scale search operation had been launched due to the sheer scale of the cliff fall with a reported 50,000 tons of chalk crashing into the sea.

UK Coastguard duty controller Kaimes Beasley said the search would continue until they were satisfied nobody had been injured or trapped.

He said: “We are advising beach-goers to keep away from the scene and we are currently cordoning off the area in the interests of public safety.

“I cannot stress enough that this rock fall clearly shows how unstable cliff edges can be so please keep your distance from cliff edges, at both the top and the bottom of the cliffs, at all times.”

Horrified people watched the incident unfold from Splash Point on the seafront at Seaford.

Mon Darnbrough was near the Martello Tower in Seaford when she realised what had happened.

She said: “There was a lot of chalk dust rising up. Even ten minutes later you could still see it in the air.

“It would have been very uncomfortable for people close to it.

“You can’t walk along the beach where it happened and I don’t think people can access it at the top but it just shows how dangerous these cliffs can be though. I hope nobody has been hurt.”

Dean Barfield, from Seaford, said he saw the search operation start as a crowd of people formed to watch.

He said: “I wasn’t sure what was going on but when I made my way to the end of the jetty I could see a pile of rubble in the sea at the bottom of the cliff.”

The chalk cliffs along the coast have suffered several falls in recent years.

The nearby Birling Gap National Trust Museum includes films of recent rock falls and The Argus has reported on people sitting on cliff edges despite warnings of the dangers.

The chalk cliffs along the coast have suffered several falls in recent years.


IT HAD been feared a man was under the chalk but he was found safe and well.

Nigel Cusack, group commander of East Sussex Fire and Rescue Service, said: “There is a substantial collapse in the cliff. 

“We used drones which gave us enough information so that we can scale back the operation.”

Graham Easton, senior coastal operations officer for Area Eight in Kent and Sussex, said: “We are happy that we have given everything a good search and there is no final report of anyone caught up in this.

“A report was made that someone was near the collapse but we have spoken to him and we are satisfied that we have covered that.

“It is a dynamic cliff fall and is constantly eroding.

“If anyone is believed to be missing please contact the Coastguard or the police.”

Emergency workers stayed at the scene into the evening checking everybody was safe and to ensure nobody else went into the danger area.