A popular surfing beach was closed Saturday after a cliff collapsed, sending tons of sandstone onto beachgoers and killing at least three people.
The cliff collapsed around 3 p.m. and trapped several people on the beach in Encinitas near San Diego.
A woman died at the scene, and two more people later died at hospitals. Another person was taken to a hospital, and a person who had minor injuries was treated at the scene, according to statements from the city.
Their names and ages were not immediately released. All the victims were adults, authorities said.
Police had to stop searching for additional victims because the scene was too dangerous. They are now using K-9's in the search, according to local news reports. One of the boulders that fell was said to be 7 or 8 feet by 4 feet.
The cliff was on Grandview Beach, a popular surf spot among locals and vacationers.
The beach was filled with people at the time of the collapse. A KNSD-TV helicopter captured footage of beach chairs, towels, surfboards and beach toys strewn about the sand.
Suburbs north of San Diego have contended with rising water levels in the Pacific Ocean, pressuring bluffs along the coast. Some bluffs are fortified with concrete walls to prevent multimillion-dollar homes from falling into the sea.
Long stretches of beach in Encinitas are narrow strips of sand between stiff waves and towering rock walls. People lounging on beach chairs or blankets are sometimes surprised as waves roll past them and within a few feet of the walls.
Grandview Beach is fairly narrow, with tides high this week. Surfers lay their boards upright against the bluff.
Cliffside collapses are not unusual as the ocean chews away at the base of the sandstone, authorities said. Some beach areas were marked with signs warning of slide dangers.
Several people have been killed or injured over the years in bluff collapses. The San Diego Tribune reported that Rebecca Kowalczyk, 30, of Encinitas died near the same area on Jan. 16, 2000, when a 110-yard-wide chunk of bluff fell and buried her.
Contributing: Associated Press
Updated 8:06 PM EST Dec 14, 2019