The fall of thousands of tons of rock, sand and soil tore open the side of the Holbeck Hall Hotel leaving parts of the building tottering on the edge of the cliffs. Guests were woken shortly after 7am yesterday when cracks appeared in the hotel gardens. Staff quickly evacuated the 50 people staying in the hotel.
Throughout the day huge chunks of earth dropped away 200ft into the sea. The landslip was at one point moving at 10ft an hour.
An RAF helicopter with heat- seeking equipment searched for anyone who might have been buried in the landslip but no one was found. The guests were moved to other hotels nearby. They were unable to collect their belongings because of the risk of the building collapsing around them.
The 30-roomed hotel was built in 1880 and stands on high cliffs to the south of Scarborough. It is the North Yorkshire town's only four- star hotel and is built in a mock 15th- century style with a baronial hall and minstrels' gallery. In 1932 the property was sold to Tom Laughton, the brother of the actor Charles Laughton who occasionally helped run the business in Scarborough.
The landslip began late on Thursday evening but it was not thought to be a threat to the hotel. However, shortly after dawn yesterday Peter Swales, who lives locally, saw the slip moving fast towards the hotel while walking his dog. He raised the alarm and the evacuation began.
Dorothy and Bruce Gledhill, from Saddleworth, who were staying in the hotel, said they got up and looked out of the bedroom window to find that the rose garden had disappeared. Mrs Gledhill said: 'It had just slipped about 200ft into the sea. We had seen some recent fissures about 2ft deep but it did not look as if it would reach the hotel. Now I don't know what we are going to do because we have no luggage.'
Colin Haddington, the Mayor of Filey, saw the landslip. 'By the time we got onto the beach the cliff was just crumbling away,' he said. 'Within minutes the rocks had all started slipping down and then a great big boulder crashed down and broke through some railings. Then there was a large crack and the whole sea wall seemed to fall onto the beach.'
Scarborough Borough Council called in a team of geologists to survey the area and assess the damage. Michael Clements, director of technical services for the council, said it was by far the worst fall along the east coast in more than 30 years. 'It happened very suddenly. There had been some cracks over the past few weeks but nothing on this scale.'
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