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Landslide on Shipwreck Beach in Zante: Mum and daughter from Deal describe 'mini tsunami'

By Eleanor Perkins

A mum has spoken of the terrifying moment she was separated from her daughter when a landslide hit a popular beach on a Greek island, injuring at least seven people.

Sharon Gifford, 49, from Walmer Gardens, Deal, was among the holidaymakers on Shipwreck Beach in Zante when tons of limestone fell away from the cliff face yesterday.

She had been there just 10 minutes when she heard "a loud crack like explosion" before witnessing the sheet of rock collapse into the sea, flooding the enclosed beach area.

A boat transporting holidaymakers to the beach just minutes before the landslide
A boat transporting holidaymakers to the beach just minutes before the landslide

Within moments, the water was up to her knees and her belongings had been washed away.

Her 22-year-old daughter, Sophie Gifford, was snorkelling out at sea at the time with the impact causing three boats to capsize and others to speed away to avoid danger.

Mrs Gifford, who was two-days into the week long break with her daughter, spent about three minutes trying to spot her in the water before urgently signalling for her to come back.

She said: "It was horrible, very scary.

Relieved: Sharon Gifford leaving the beach after the landslide
Relieved: Sharon Gifford leaving the beach after the landslide
Sophie Gifford, pictured with her retrieved belongings, heads to the boat after the incident
Sophie Gifford, pictured with her retrieved belongings, heads to the boat after the incident

"It was so loud. The limestone came down in three lumps and caused so much dust and created a mini tsunami.

"I was worried when the boats sped off in reverse that they might run Sophie over.

"Two boats offered to pick her up but she wanted to get back to let me know she was safe.

"I spotted her after about three minutes and she waved back. I waved for her to get back.

"She came back after about 10 minutes after judging whether it was safe."

Holidaymakers moved away from cliff face but feared more could fall
Holidaymakers moved away from cliff face but feared more could fall
Sophie Gifford, 22, from Deal, pictured on the popular beach before the landslide
Sophie Gifford, 22, from Deal, pictured on the popular beach before the landslide

Mrs Gifford scrambled around to retrieve their belongings and then waited for boats to come and collect them.

She said very few people around her could speak English.

The popular beach - officially called Navagio beach, taking its name from the remains of a cargo ship that was wrecked there nearly 40 years ago - is only accessible by boat.

She said: "It all felt very enclosed. There was no where to run to.

"The only way out was to wait an hour for our boat to be allowed back to get us.

Navagio beach in Zante was packed with holidaymakers when the landslide occurred
Navagio beach in Zante was packed with holidaymakers when the landslide occurred

"There was loads of screaming and it seemed like the sea just took over.

"People lost their belongings and mobile phones were ruined.

"We were worried whether it would happen again or whether that was it.

"Fortunately it was quite low down. If it had been higher up, we would dread to think what would have happened.

"It was a relief when our boat finally got to us about an hour later but felt like a lifetime."

People attempt to right a boat after the weight of the cliff fall caused it to capsize
People attempt to right a boat after the weight of the cliff fall caused it to capsize
A boat transporting holidaymakers to the beach just minutes before the landslide
A boat transporting holidaymakers to the beach just minutes before the landslide

Mrs Gifford text her family to let them know they were safe and also informed friends on Facebook.

At least seven people were hurt following the incident although their injuries are not thought to be life-threatening.

Mrs Gifford added: "Two people in our boat had to go to hospital with a bad back and another had their ankle trapped in rope."

National media reported that sniffer dogs searched the beach for possible victims before the coastguard said all visitors had been accounted for.

Access to the beach was shut down as a precaution.

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