ENCINITAS, CA (CBS) –– A popular surfing beach was closed Saturday after a cliff collapsed, sending tons of sandstone onto beachgoers and killing three people. A 30-foot-long slab of the cliff plunged onto the sand near Grandview Beach north of San Diego, prompting a frantic effort to rescue victims buried in the debris.
A KNSD-TV helicopter captured footage of beach chairs, towels, surf boards and beach toys strewn about the sand. CBS San Diego affiliate KFMB reports cadaver dogs were on scene to help determine if anyone else might be trapped under the pile.
Other beachgoers and lifeguards at a nearby tower scrambled to the towering pile of debris, which was estimated to weigh tens of thousands of pounds, to help dig out victims. “I saw first responders, and I saw lifeguards frantically digging people out of the debris,” Jim Pepperdine, who lives nearby, told the San Diego Union-Tribune.
Pepperdine said he saw people trying to resuscitate a woman before her body was covered.
A woman died at the scene, and two more people later died at hospitals. Another person was taken to a hospital, and a person who had minor injuries was treated at the scene, according to statements from the city.
Their names and ages were not immediately released. All the victims were adults, authorities said.
A skip loader was brought in to move the dense, heavy debris. No other victims were found by late Friday night.
The beach is reached by wooden stairs from a parking lot above. Homes atop the cliff were not in any danger, Encinitas Fire Chief Mike Stein said.
The cliff remained unstable and complicated the search effort, Stein said.
Suburbs north of San Diego have contended with rising water levels in the Pacific Ocean, pressuring bluffs along the coast. Some bluffs are fortified with concrete walls to prevent multimillion-dollar homes from falling into the sea.
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