A portion of the famed Cliff Walk along the coast of Newport, Rhode Island, collapsed and fell into the ocean on Thursday.
There were no injuries reported when the 20-foot piece of the walk partially collapsed and tore up a section of the pedestrian path.
“It’s bad,” William Riccio, Newport’s director of public services, told the Newport Daily News. “This is crazy. It’s a complete failure of … I can’t even fill in that blank right now. You can’t believe the piles of debris right now.”
The Cliff Walk along the eastern shore of Newport serves as a public access walk over private property. It gives visitors an up-close view of the shoreline with the architectural history of the city’s Gilded Age, according to the walk’s official website.
The 3.5-mile trail was designated a National Recreation Trail in 1975 and is a must-see for any visitors to the area.
Crews routinely do maintenance on the walk and keep an eye on any areas of concern. According to city officials, the area of the collapse was not one of those.
“It’s a natural bluff that is well protected from surf and the intense ocean effects that you typically expect from a coastal walkway,” city spokesman Tom Shevlin told the Boston Globe.
He said the weather was not an issue on Thursday, so the collapse could be due to natural erosion or water intrusion.
“There’s a number of natural caverns formations that dot the cliff walk. They can, at times, become an issue,” Shevlin said.
The collapse has forced the city to close access to the portion of the walk, and it will remain that way for the foreseeable future.
“It’s dumbfounding when you see it,” Riccio said. “It’s a lot of material that collapsed. Just a total collapse.”
Repairs will be extensive, he said.
“This is not a ‘Get a backhoe in here and you fix it tomorrow.’ This is giant,” he said.
Riccio said the damage was much worse than when Superstorm Sandy hit the coastline a decade ago.
“You can see there are still things moving,” he said. “I’m not convinced it is done yet.”
Officials are thankful there were no injuries, and apparently nobody was around the section of the walk when the collapse took place.
Police were called when a pedestrian said they heard a loud noise. Police and other city crews set up barriers and blockades to keep people away, although Riccio said they expect a lot of people to try to show up to see the damage.
Other portions of the walk will remain open, but Shelvin said the impacted area could be closed for weeks. He said the breakage is isolated, but the drop is higher than most of the walk, and that will be a challenge in making repairs.
“This is tough,” he said. “It’s a showpiece for the state, and everyone really puts in the work to take care of it.”