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Lives put at risk by 'stupid' scavengers

PUBLISHED: 15:15 02 February 2009 | UPDATED: 22:20 05 July 2010

AGENCIES working to clear Suffolk's coastline of thousands of pieces of timber which washed ashore have condemned some scavengers as "stupid" and "dangerous".

AGENCIES working to clear Suffolk's coastline of thousands of pieces of timber which washed ashore have condemned some scavengers as “stupid” and “dangerous”.

Contractors carrying out the clean-up work have been subjected to abuse and threats from members of the public looking to take the timber.

There have also been reports that some people visiting the beaches have been removing flood gates and are armed with axle grinders to gain access to the planks of wood.

A spokesman for Suffolk Coastal District Council, one of the agencies working to clear the debris, said: “These actions are not only stupid and dangerous for potentially putting other people's safety at risk by damaging or removing important defences against possible flooding, they are also taking pointless risks as the timber itself is useless. Because the untreated timber has been in the sea since January 19, it will inevitably discolour and rot within a few months, so has no practical use for anyone.

“The council would strongly urge everyone not to waste their time, or take actions that may put theirs and other people's lives at risk, and stay away from the beaches and leave the clean-up teams to get on with the job of clearing up the spoilt timber.”

Thousands of pieces of wood - some up to 12ft long - have been washing up on beaches from Orford Ness northwards to Southwold and Lowestoft since Friday morning.

There have been reports that timber has been washing up on Norfolk beaches as far north as Winterton.

The wood was lost from the Russian-registered Sinegorsk off the East Sussex coast on January 19.

Many members of the public have been taking the timber away, with some people loading up vans. Although this is not illegal, those taking the timber must notify the Receiver of Wreck otherwise it becomes a criminal offence.

Contractors have been working all weekend to clear the affected beaches, with their workforce and equipment doubling in size yesterday.

The council's spokesman said it would be days before the clean-up operation was finished. “They are making good progress but for the moment it is too early to tell how much longer it will take. A lot more depends on how the weather goes over the next day or two but we are still looking at a few days.”

Coastguards said last night that as the weekend had progressed their had been fewer reports of timber washing up.

Christina Martyn, watch manager at Yarmouth Coastguard, said: “We had only one further report of timber today [SUN] so most of the wood has now come ashore.”

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