Pictures show sunbathers soaking up the sunshine beneath the cliffs at West Bay.

Children can be see clambering on the rocks and inquisitive beachgoers observe the debris from a rockfall earlier this year, seemingly unaware of the ongoing danger.

Two hours after the photo was taken, only a short distance away, part of the same cliff collapsed onto the beach. 

Emergency services rushed to East Beach just after 8pm on Sunday, although an initial statement from HM Coastguard reported this as closer to 7pm. 

Bournemouth Echo:

Drone image by Rob Cox

Reports from the public suggested people may well have been in the area at the time of the cliff fall and a major search operation was carried out to check no one was trapped beneath any rubble. 

No one was reported missing or injured, but a thorough search is always carried out to be sure.

West Bay coastguard rescue team led the search operation, with support from police, the fire and ambulance services and a member of the public with a drone. Luckily, no one was in the area at the time. 

The area remained closed on Monday and Dorset Council is assessing the area. 

Bournemouth Echo:

East Beach closed off today Picture: Hollie Carr/Bridport News

The Bridport News was at West Bay over the weekend and it was as busy as you'd expect on a scorching weekend during holiday season. 

Footage taken by us at 6.10pm on Sunday shows a number of people lingering at the beach as the evening draws to a close. 

Bournemouth Echo:

East Beach on Sunday evening prior to the cliff fall Picture: Jennifer Mulcahey

It's hard not to think about what could've happened had the cliff given way just a few hours earlier. 

Locals know all too well the tragic story of Charlotte Blackman who, in 2012, was killed while walking along Freshwater Beach with her family when 400 tonnes of rock crashed down on top of her.

Warning signs have been placed on the beach and near the cliffs since, but they don't appear to deter everyone. 

In the past, geologist Sam Scriven told us the location of West Bay’s cliffs means they face the ‘full force’ of any storm and ‘bear the brunt’ of bad weather.

He said people should respect the landscape and use common sense at the beach.

“People think of the British seaside as a lovely, safe, family place but the beach is part of the wilderness and nature is doing its thing there," he said.

"People need to be respectful of that. We can’t close off the beach but people need to be aware of the risks. They are beautiful cliffs and people like to marvel at them but respect them as you would the sea and act responsibly.”

Advice for visiting the coast:

  • Do not take unnecessary risks and stay away from the edge of the cliff top
  • Stay away from the base of cliffs: rock falls can happen at any time
  • Do not climb or walk over landslide or rock fall debris, especially after wet weather
  • Always pay attention to warning signs; they are there to advise you on how to stay safe
  • Check tide times before you set off- avoid being cut off by incoming tides
  • Be aware of mud flows
  • Keep dogs on leads near the cliff edge
  • Admire the view from a safe distance
  • Enjoy the open spaces and keep well clear of the cliffs
  • Beware of steep, shelving beaches and large waves
  • Don’t hammer into the cliffs or solid rock looking for fossils