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19 People Gathering Shellfish
Die in Northern England

Last Updated Mon, 09 Feb 2004 8:09:26

LONDON - At least 19 people in northern England died when they were trapped by rising tides.

Police said more than 30 cockle pickers were cut off from the shore of Morecambe Bay in Lancashire, an area known for its dangerous fast-rising tides and quicksands. Some of the 14 survivors were found on a sandbank.

Rescue workers remove body, Morecambe Bay, England (AP photo)

The group is believed to have headed out on Thursday evening to search for cockles, a shellfish delicacy that lives below the surface of sand.

Coast guard spokesperson Martin Collins said the rescue had been made more difficult because they didn't know how many people were in the group.

Helicopters and lifeboats were being used in the search for those still missing. Land teams also were scouring the coastline near the bay.

Cockle picking has become a controversial issue in Britain. Geraldine Smith, the local member of Parliament, said the difficulty of regulating cockle-picking meant it was "a tragedy waiting to happen."

She said the value of the cockles on Morecambe beach, estimated at the equivalent of nearly $15 million, has lured people from all over Britain and beyond and led to exploitation.

"The cockles which were on the beach were worth a great deal of money, but very tragically I would imagine that those poor people who lost their lives were making very little of that money, and were probably victims of exploitation," Smith said.

Written by CBC News Online staff

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