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Emergency services’ plea after Birsay cliff collapse

Part of a cliff in Birsay recently collapsed into the sea. (Laura Cogle)

Orkney’s emergency services are pleading with locals and visitors to take care when enjoying our coastline following a recent cliff collapse at Birsay.

The multi-agency Orkney Local Emergency Coordination Group (OLECG) has met to discuss public safety with regards to the incident.

Orkney area inspector for Police Scotland, David Hall, said: “It’s important locals and visitors to Orkney are aware of this fall in what is a popular walking area and resist the urge to try and get a closer look, as the likelihood is that the cliff edges and top layer of soil around the fall area are themselves unstable.”

Dave Sweeny, the Maritime and Coastguard Agency’s area commander for Orkney and Shetland added: “We’d really just echo the advice we give to coastal communities all around the UK – stay well back from cliff edges when walking and don’t take risks trying to get the perfect selfie.

“The majority of cliff collapses can’t be accurately predicted and it’s just not worth taking the risk.

“If you have or see an emergency on the Coastline dial 999 and ask for Coastguard.”

Angus Young, Orkney station commander for Scottish Fire and Rescue said: “While we do not want to discourage people from enjoying the beautiful scenery along our cliff top and costal trails I would ask that everyone is that bit more cautious not only in this area but on every cliff top & costal trail.

“We’d also plead with people not to go exploring the fall in Birsay and trying to get a closer view — there is the very real risk that the area of ground either side for quite some way is yet to collapse, and you could be endangering not only yourselves but emergency services who would be called to assist if you fell.”

The fall took place just east of the Whitaloo point in Birsay in Orkney’s West Mainland in an area of high sea cliffs. It’s believed to have occurred some time in the last week.

OLEGC brings together a broad range of organisations such as the emergency and public services, transport providers, the utilities and voluntary sector to help keep the Orkney community safe —  for example, the group has played a key role in helping ensure smooth running of key coronavirus responses including supporting Orkney’s vaccination programme.