Three dead as cliff collapses on to surfing beach
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Three people have died after a cliff collapsed on to a popular surfing beach in California.
People scrambled for safety as the 30ft by 25ft (9m by 7.5m) section of the cliff fell on to Grandview Beach in Encinitas, about 25 miles north of San Diego, on Friday afternoon, sending tonnes of sandstone crashing to the sand below.
One woman died at the scene, and two more people died later in hospital.
A fourth victim was also taken to hospital for treatment, while another who suffered minor injuries was treated at the scene, city officials said.
Authorities did not give the ages of the victims, but confirmed they were all adults.
Sniffer dogs were brought in to search the scene due to conflicting reports of further victims, Encinitas fire chief Mike Stein told reporters on Friday evening.
Other beach-goers and lifeguards at a nearby tower ran to help the rescue efforts.
Search crews and city engineers used a skip loader to move the debris, but their task was complicated by fears of a potential secondary collapse, as well as the incoming evening tide.
Beach chairs, towels, surf boards and beach toys were seen strewn about the sand.
The collapse happened at about 3pm, near a mobile lifeguard tower and a set of wooden stairs leading to the beach from Neptune Avenue, Lieutenant Ted Greenawald of the San Diego County Sheriff’s department said.
Officials closed the beach to the public.
Cliff collapses in the area are not unusual as the ocean erodes the base of the sandstone, authorities said, and several people have been killed or injured over the years.
Some beach areas are marked with signs warning of slide dangers.
Grandview Beach is fairly narrow and tides have been high this week.
Rising Pacific Ocean water levels affect cliffs along the coast north of San Diego, and some are fortified with concrete walls to prevent multimillion-dollar homes from falling into the sea.