'Body inside' flood collapse flats

The collapsed flats on Sandplace Road, East Looe, Cornwall, where one of the occupants is unaccounted for

The collapsed flats on Sandplace Road, East Looe, Cornwall, where one of the occupants is unaccounted for

First published in National News © by

Emergency teams searching a partially collapsed property for a missing woman have said they believe a body is inside.

Specialist investigators from Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service are carefully picking through the debris at the Veronica flats in Looe, south east Cornwall, after heavy rain is thought to have triggered a landslide which engulfed part of the property.

More than a dozen residents in Sandplace Road were evacuated early on Friday after most of the front-facing wall of the building crumbled away, with debris and mud crashing on to the back of the property from the road behind it.

On Friday morning, police said one woman, Susan Norman, was unaccounted for, having not been heard from since returning to the flats on Thursday night. On Friday afternoon, fire crews said they believed Ms Norman, who was in her 60s, is in the building.

Dave King, from Cornwall Fire and Rescue Service, said: "Crews have now been able to go safely into the building. Early investigations suggest that she (Ms Norman) is in there."

He said: "It's a very unstable situation at this time. The building has got significant damage to it. Specialist crews have come down to assist us in propping the building up, to make it as stable as possible so we can commit firefighters inside and actually find this missing person.

"It's a very fluid situation. We have to monitor the stability of the building throughout the operation. If we feel at any time that anybody is put at any risk, we will withdraw everybody and make a reassessment. It is stable at the moment and we are carrying out a rescue operation.

"A significant amount of earth has moved at the back of the property and has caused the damage to the property - it (the building) has moved forward."

Mr King said it would be "speculative" to comment on what actually caused the landslip and said Cornwall Council would be carrying out an investigation.

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