Coastguards in Norfolk are urging people stay away from the base of cliffs after a teenage girl had to be airlifted to hospital when rocks fell on her as she was sunbathing.
She was hurt when part of a cliff crumbled on top of her at a beach.he suffered suspected head and back injuries, but is now thought to be in a stable condition.
The girl had been standing at the base of the cliff on Happisburgh beach, Norfolk, when she was hit at about 16:30 BST on Friday.The collapse was described by the rescue service as a “relatively small cliff fall”.
Keith Griffin, from Bacton coastguard said: “The person managed to get pulled out of where the cliff had fallen.”
A team from Bacton coastguard had been in the area two hours earlier warning people to keep their distance from the cliff-face.
Coastguards say cliffs are more liable to collapse at the moment due to recent dry weather.
“Many cliffs have become particularly unstable after the very dry weather, followed by recent rain and now drying again in this current period of warm weather and creating a higher risk of instability than normal,” a spokesperson from Bacton Coastguard Rescue Team said.
Coastal defences built at Happisburgh have slowed down the rate of retreat. However, large sections are now in disrepair. Sea-level rise and climate change, including increased storminess, may also increase the rate of erosion. Agriculture and tourism contribute significantly to the economy of the village and surrounding hinterland although this is threatened by the receding cliff line that, prior to the construction of a rock embankment at the northern end of the survey site, had claimed at least one property per year plus significant quantities of agricultural land.
It is likely that the Norfolk cliffs have been eroding at the present rate for about the last 5000 years when sea level rose to within a metre or two of its present position (Clayton, 1989). Therefore, the future predictions of sea level rise and storm frequency due to climate change are likely to have a profound impact on coastal erosion and serious consequences for the effectiveness of coastal protection and sea defence schemes in East Anglia in the near future (Thomalla and Vincent, 2003).
Rapid erosion of the cliffs at Happisburgh means that we can observe processes that for other sites may normally take thousands of years. This means that we can look for patterns in the erosion at Happisburgh, which may help our understanding of sites elsewhere that are eroding more slowly.