Smoker blasted for sitting ‘dangerously’ close to 400ft cliff edge that’s crumbling away

A sightseer sits on a crumbly chalk 400 feet cliff casually puffing on a cigarette as he dangles his feet over the edge and dices with death. The alarming picture was taken at Birling Gap in East Sussex where there are warnings about the ‘fragile’ and ‘soft’ chalk.

Photographer JJ Waller captured the scenes just miles from two recent cliff collapses.

These happened at nearby Seaford Head and Peacehaven which prompted councils to team up with the HM Coastguard and launch a campaign about the dangers of unstable chalk cliffs.

However, their warnings appeared to go ignored with people continuing to walk right up to the edge.

Mr Waller said: “This is almost a daily occurrence despite the warnings.

“Visitors aren’t aware of how soft the chalk is and crowds flock to this spot in search of the all-important selfies.

“But while it is a beautiful location, it demands respect and care. Never go by the edge.”

On the same day the pictures were taken on Good Friday a terrifying incident unfolded in Dorset – with 400 tones of rockfall collapsing onto a beach, just metres from where families were taking an Easter stroll.

Further safety warnings have been issued following the photos by Mr Waller, with East Sussex County Council warning that chalk can fall ‘at any time with no warning’.

A spokesman said: “We continue to see people getting perilously close to the edge of the cliffs without realising the dangers.

“The cliffs contain many overhangs and cracks that visitors may not be able to see, and the unstable chalk can fall at any time with absolutely no warning.

“We want to encourage people to continue to visit the area safely. Do not ignore the signs and keep well away from the edge.

“Getting the perfect selfie is not worth taking a risk with your life.”

The Maritime and Coastguard Agency also said getting ‘a dramatic picture’ was not worth the risk and encouraged people to not forget about the dangers of erosion.

“The cliffs along the UK coastline are continually eroding, with pieces falling from them that can be just a few small rocks or as large as a car,” a spokesperson said.

“It’s impossible to predict when the next piece might fall or how big it will be.

“We really can’t stress enough how important it is to keep back from the edge. There is no ‘safe’ place to be.

“If cracks have appeared even if they are several feet away from the edge, don’t be tempted to go and investigate and don’t risk going to the edge to get a dramatic picture.

“Please enjoy your coastal walk, but make sure you and your loved ones come home again safely.”

The agency added that particular care should be exercised after periods of rainfall, as this will make cliff edges even more vulnerable.

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