Published: 25/01/2013 12:06 - Updated: 25/01/2013 12:16

Coastguard staff evacuated in fears over cliff erosion

Written byby Will Clark

The latest landslip at East Gills.
The latest landslip at East Gills.

STAFF at Scrabster coastguard station have been evacuated from their cliff-edge base after officials ordered the building to be abandoned, claiming it was too dangerous to work in.

The volunteer team which ran the SOS service at East Gills was ordered to leave the premises due to fears about the building falling into the sea after major storm damage last month.

Staff voiced their concern to officials at headquarters in Lerwick after the extreme weather caused further cliff erosion at the site.

The base, which consists of an office and a garage, is currently around four metres away from the cliff edge with parts of the ground eroding daily.

The Tarmac area of the car park is beginning to sink and cracks have appeared in the garage.

A spokeswoman for the Marine and Coastguard Agency confirmed the building has been abandoned this week due to safety fears and new premises are being sought as a matter of urgency.

She said: “A structural engineer has carried out a full investigation into the property and, as a result, the building will no longer be used as it is not safe for occupation.

“We are now currently looking for alternative accommodation for our coastguard team to be based but at present we have no replacement site.”

The spokeswoman could not confirm how the coastguard service will be run while alternative accommodation is being sought.

Earlier this month, station manager Donnie Bain said the erosion has given staff cause for concern for years and, due to their worries, a search for alternative accommodation in the town was already under way before the cliff collapse.

He said: “We were already looking at doing this prior to the fall but now this has happened it has escalated the search,” he said.

The erosion at East Gills was included in a report by Highland Council into the cost of storm damage repairs at ports across the north.

Although it recommended no money was needed for the cliff erosion at East Gills, it advised officials to monitor the situation.

Thurso councillor Roger Saxon has called for an expert to be hired to provide estimates of the impact weather and climate change could have in the next 20 years.

“I think this storm should be a wake-up call for us,” he said.

“We should be thinking about the long term and our flood defences.”

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