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Famous Maltese rock bridge collapses

March 8, 2017

The huge limestone bridge featured prominently in Maltese tourism ads was long suspected to be prone to collapse. The Prime Minister called its collapse "heartbreaking" and locals flocked to mourn its loss.

The Azure Window before its collapse
Image: picture alliance/Robert B. Fishman

Malta's renowned rock formation known as the Azure Window collapsed into the ocean on Wednesday.

Prime Minister Joseph Muscat described the collapse of the natural arch as a "heartbreaking event," tweeting a photo of the scene.

The 28-meter (90-foot) wide limestone arch fell down after heavy winds knocked out one of the supporting pillars.

Geologists had long suspected it would fall and had banned people from walking on the natural bridge. But many videos online show people illegally cliff diving from the structure before its collapse.

Maltese media reported that locals had flocked to the scene to witness the damage.

Local resident Roger Chessell was among those who went to the coastline of Gozo island in the morning to watch the storm.

"There was a big raging sea beneath the Azure Window," he told the English language daily "Times of Malta" newspaper. "Suddenly, the arch collapsed into the sea with a loud whoomph, throwing up a huge spray."

The structure featured in countless tourism ads for Malta and was the scene of many film sets, including television show Game of Thrones.

Prime Minister Muscat said the famous Mediterranean landmark had always faced destruction because of natural corrosion. "That sad day has arrived," he said.

The bridge was created thousands of years ago when two limestone caves collapsed.

aw/msh (dpa, Reuters)

Mediterranean paradise