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from The Times, UK

Bathers injured by plague of razor-sharp molluscs

Thursday, August 10, 1998


HOLIDAY beaches were evacuated yesterday when more than 130 bathers emerged bleeding from the sea after being cut in the feet and legs by hidden "razor shells".

Roads leading to Paignton and Preston beaches in Torbay, Devon, were shut as coastguard officials, police and deckchair attendants were drafted in to tend minor injuries. Serious cases were taken to hospital in Torquay for stitches. At one point an air ambulance landed on the sands.

Brian Pearce, Torbay council's beach manager, said staff will today use loudspeakers and erect warning signs telling bathers to stay out of the water until the molluscs have gone.

The cause of the drama was unclear. Razor shells, or razor clams as they are also known, are a type of scallop that have long inhabited British beaches. They are long, thin creatures resembling cut-throat razors that grow to about eight inches in length. They have powerful feet that help them to bury themselves in deep sands in seconds.

Yesterday was the hottest day this year in Torbay and beaches were packed with thousands of families enjoying temperatures in the mid-80s. That coincided with an unusually low spring tide, allowing people to wade out much further than usual.

The injuries happened as people ran into the sea and cut their feet. Many of the victims of the shellfish were children. Dave Burrell, owner of Aqualand Marina in Torquay, said: "These things bury themselves in the sand and don't normally harm anyone but the tides meant that they were on the surface."

Adrian Sanders, MP for Torbay, said: "It was like a scene from Jaws as the police and other officers cleared the sea of people."

Chris Coles, a senior ambulance officer, said: "We've treated 130 people, many of them children."

Copyright 1998 Times Newspapers Ltd.

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