Malta's 'Azure Window' rock formation collapses into the sea

Malta's Azure Window collapses into the sea

Malta's Prime Minister Joseph Muscat called the collapse of the limestone rock "heartbreaking". Known as one of the best tourist spots in the world, Azure Window is a massive natural rock formation that is jutted into the sea in the coast of Malta.

One Gozo resident who witnessed the storm this week described the arch collapsing into the sea "with a loud whoomph, throwing up a huge spray". "By the time the spray had faded, the stack had gone too".

While the collapse is tragic for local tourism, it wasn't completely unexpected. In a press conference, the environment minister Jose Herrera said there wasn't anything that could have been done to prevent the collapse, as studies found no man-made interventions would have protected the arch, the Malta Times reported. In order to procure it for as long as possible, visitors were asked not to walk on it with fines of 1500 euros put in place to deter people. "That sad day arrived", Maltese Prime Minister Joseph Muscat tweeted on Wednesday. Video taken by bystanders shows the rock being battered by strong winds and waves shortly before it fell. However, geologists in 2013 also suggested that the iconic arch would survive several decades.

"But the incident should encourage everybody to put forward pertinent questions about what we are doing to sustainably manage the resources we still have left", the commission said in a statement.

The prime minister admitted there was a "great deal of local and worldwide interest" in the 50m-high limestone arch on the island of Gozo, in Dwejra Bay, which had attracted thousands of tourists a year.

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