Schoolgirls survive being buried alive after beach cliff collapse
Archant

Two schoolgirls survived being buried alive when a section of cliff collapsed on them as they walked on a beach.

The friends were saved by a group of three men who dug them out with their bare hands after a 10-year-old boy raised the alarm.

The girls are believed to have been trying to climb the 30ft tall shallow sandy cliff face when it suddenly collapsed at Hemsby beach, Norfolk.

Three fire engines, two ambulances and lifeboat men rushed to Hemsby beach fearing the worst on Good Friday, but the girls were rescued by passers-by before more of the cliff could give way.

Retired fisherman Kenny Chaney told his local newspaper it could have been a different story if he were not on the beach with his metal detector at the time.

"A little boy of about 10 came running up to me and said 'two girls have been buried in an avalanche'," said Mr Chaney, 66.

"It seemed they had tried to climb the cliffs. One girl was buried up to her neck and the other up to her chest.

"I was worried that the whole lot would come down - it was pretty vertical there and there's a lot of weight in it."

He said two men came to assist with digging out the two holidaymakers, who he estimates were aged 12 and nine.

"They were pretty panicked and frightened," he said. "We couldn't use a shovel as we didn't know where their legs were. I was drawing the sand out with my bare hands. It felt a long while when I kept digging and the sand kept collapsing in.

"They were very lucky they didn't get completely buried or nobody would have seen them until the next tide."

After 10 minutes of digging, the girls were freed - the emergency services arrived shortly afterwards and the girls were reunited with their father.

It is understood the family had been walking from Winterton to Hemsby along the beach.

A spokesman for the fire service said the tide was a long way in that day and made the sand act like sinking mud.

Ross Hewitt, coxswain of Hemsby Lifeboat, said: "The major risk is death. Luckily for the girls, there was someone on the beach, but apart from them there was nobody else.

"They could have been stuck there for who knows how long."

What a lucky escape!