The collapse of roughly 30,000 cubic metres of earth at Jasmund National Park followed weeks of heavy rains that also swept many trees into the water. No one was injured.
Cliff falls are a common occurrence on the island, which is a part of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania state. Several major landslides have happened over the last decade and warnings are often issued to tourists to avoid the most unstable areas.
“It is crumbling everywhere,” said Ingolf Stodian, who heads up the country’s national parks service.
Up to 1.5 million tourists visit the cliffs annually, making them a top tourist attraction. But storms are eroding them all the time and there is little officials can do to stop the process.
Even the famed Königstuhl cliff, is beginning to show cracks, Stodian said.
The erosion process appears to have accelerated this year because the area has received an unusual amount of rain – around 210 litres of water fell per square metre in July alone. That’s roughly a third of the total amount of rain the national park would get in an entire year.
In the last 12 months, more than twice the annual volume of rain has fallen, something meteorologist Stefan Kreibohm, who monitors rain patterns in the area called “extraordinary.”
Officials have said there’s no reason to panic that the Königstuhl could disappear any time soon. But they acknowledge that more cliff collapses will inevitably happen and if nothing is done, even the most famous outcroppings could crumble away.
The state government is preparing a risk assessment to see what is likely to happen in the future.