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Storm Emma causes major rockfall

By Eyleen Sheil and Gabriella Peralta

A major rock fall opposite Beach View Terraces forced the closure of Devil’s Tower Road for several hours yesterday, damaging vehicles and causing widespread alarm to residents and workers in the area.

A large section of the north face of the Rock crashed down to the base of the cliff in a dramatic cloud of dust and debris that damaged buildings on both sides of the road.

The Royal Gibraltar Police confirmed there had been no injuries but warned the public to “expect delays” when approaching the eastern side of the Rock as vehicles were unable to enter the area.

Emergency personnel including the Fire and Rescue Service attended the scene and sealed off the area just after 3pm yesterday.

“I was in my living room and I heard a very big noise,” said resident of Beach View Terraces Nicky Cumbo.

“I looked out and saw a big cloud of dust. I thought it was a plane but when I looked outside I saw all the debris.”

“Luckily no one was working there or any cars or bikes were passing.”

Shocking video footage shot by Mr Cumbo shows a thick plume of dust billowing from the base of the cliff.

Police urged people to stay away from the area amid concerns of further rock falls.

Hours later RGP confirmed there had been a rock fall at the MetalRok compound on Flint Road, which was subsequently also closed off.

As this edition went to press, there had been several smaller rock falls reported.

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Residents of Beach View Terraces posted dramatic photographs on social media showing the aftermath of the rock fall, which damaged several vehicles and covered others in debris and dust.

Jared Falero took images of the incident from his house that have been also posted online
Mr Falero said: “I felt the building shake and the lights flickered. I looked out and all I saw was smoke for a while.”

“When it cleared, I called the police. I’m happy there are no injuries.”

As this article went to print, Devils Tower Road remained closed and would not be reopened until the Gibraltar Fire and Rescue Service deem the area safe.

It was unclear when that would happen but bad weather forecast for the entire weekend and into next week, lengthy disruptions are likely.

Residents of Beach View Terraces arriving home yesterday were able access the building via a fire exit adjacent to the Devils Tower Camp.

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Sherilon Emmett was at home in Beach View Terraces when the rock fall happened and described how the building was “really shaking.”

“I looked out and I saw really big smoke coming out from the Rock,” Ms Emmett told the Chronicle.

“I called my partner and said ‘something has happened, I do not know what it is, but the building is really shaking.’ So I came down and at the bus stop glass was all broken and rocks were everywhere.”

Although residents were allowed to enter the estate Ms Emmett did not want to return home.
“I feel really unsafe at home, because the building was really shaking,” she said.

She added she preferred to wait around the Devil’s Tower Camp entrance until everything settled as she felt “safer”.

Rhys Elliott was also at home when he heard what he thought was a plane that had “landed badly” as he felt a “rumble” from his room.

“About 20 minutes later I get a phone call saying there has been a rock fall outside my block, so I came down as soon as I could to check my bike, but the police said I couldn’t,” he said.

Mr Elliott was able to see his motorbike from a distance and did not think it was damaged.

“It seems safe but for how long remains to be seen as rocks keep falling,” he said.

“It is a bit tense right now.”

It was not only residents who were affected by the rock fall and the subsequent road closure.

Workers in the area, many resident in Spain, had their cars parked at Eastern Beach and could not access them, forcing them to find other ways to get home.

Provision was made for vehicles to drop off passengers and residents of Beach View Terraces by travelling into Devil's Tower Rd until they reached a police roadblock.

Vehicles then had to turn around and seek alternative parking elsewhere in Gibraltar.

Access to Catalan Bay and Both Worlds was possible yesterday via Europa Point and a bus service was also running.

The RGP asked the public to please refrain from contacting emergency and enquiry lines unless absolutely necessary.

“We have a sizeable deployment of officers deployed at various locations to be able to respond promptly to calls for assistance & also ensure traffic flow is maintained,” an RGP spokesman said.

The RGP is posting regular storm updates on its social media channels.

Paul Balban, the Minister for Traffic, Transport and Technical Services, spent much of the afternoon at the scene of the rockfall as emergency services coordinated the response to the incident.

A technical meeting is expected to be held at the site this morning to assess the situation and the civil contingencies committee, which met yesterday to review the latest developments, will reconvene tomorrow afternoon.

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