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Quicksand warning after man gets stuck on Newquay beach

Quicksand warning after man gets stuck on Newquay beach

Published by Sarah Yeoman at 7:37am 9th March 2020. (Updated at 9:27am 10th March 2020)

A man from Newquay is warning others about quicksand on the beach after getting "stuck up to his waist".

Stephen Callaghan was out running on Porth beach on Monday morning when he suddenly sunk.

He couldn't move his legs at first but luckily managed to get himself free and alert officials.

He says it was at the far end of the beach where work is being carried out but all the safety fencing has been washed away.

Now Stephen fears others may get caught out by it too and is urging people to know the danger.

"I was running on Porth beach at the far side and got stuck up to my waist in quicksand, I couldn't get my legs out. Luckily I managed to get myself free.

"It is where work is being carried out on the beach but all the fencing has been washed away.

"I fear a dog will go in and get stuck and then the owner will go in after it. An elderly person wouldn't be able to get out.

"And there are lots of people on the beach now."

Stephen Callaghan, Newquay

Cornwall Council says it is just ordinary sand which does not pose a hazard to beach users.

"The piles of sand at Porth are just ordinary beach sand which has been relocated so it is less likely to blow onto the highway and into adjacent properties.

"It is not a hazard to beach users, and so was not fenced off at any point during the works."

Cornwall Council       

What is quicksand?

"Quicksand has four key ingredients - sand, water, clay and salt. Together these form a structure like a 'house of cards', with large water-filled gaps between the sand particles, which are loosely glued in place by the clay.

"As long as it is left alone, the structure remains stable. As soon as it is disturbed, by stepping on it, the clay changes from a jelly-like consistency to a runny liquid. The effect is the same as stirring a pot of yoghurt.

"Liquefying the clay makes the quicksand about one million times runnier, and the whole 'house of cards' comes tumbling down, with the person trapped inside it.

"Very quickly, the sand sinks to the bottom with the clay and the water floats to the top. The result is a very stodgy later of sand and clay, which is twice as dense as the original quicksand and packed tightly around the trapped body parts.

"The best way to release the person is to re-build the 'houses of cards' around the trapped body parts. This is done by re-introducing water between the sand and clay particles with the mud lance, reducing the density and making it easier to extract the trapped body parts.

"Extraction from the mud or quicksand will only be undertaken by HM Coastguard specialist mud technicians and certain specialist technical fire and rescue teams".

Maritime and Coastguard Agency

What should I do if I find myself stuck in quicksand?

"Our advice is always the same: Stay calm, try and spread your weight as much as possible and avoid moving.

"Call 999 and ask for the Coastguard.

"Anybody trapped should also discourage other well-meaning members of the public from attempting to rescue them because without the proper equipment they could become stuck too".

Maritime and Coastguard Agency

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