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15 Chinese cockle hunters die on British beach
Updated: 2004-02-06 13:49

At least 15 Chinese shellfish hunters died and several more were missing after they were caught by a fast-rising tide on a beach in northwest England, the coastguard said on Friday. Twelve have been rescued.

A group of around 30 cockle gatherers were cut off from the shore in Morecombe Bay, Lancashire, late on Thursday. At least 12 were rescued or managed to wade or swim ashore.

coastguard spokesman Martin Collins said 15 bodies have been found and there are possibly more dead.

Police coordinating the rescue said military helicopters and the coastguard began searching for the group when the alarm was raised after dark on Thursday.

Locals often go out onto the beach to harvest cockles, which live just below the surface of muddy sand and are eaten after being shelled and cooked.

But the tides in the bay are dangerous for those not used them, especially at night. The incoming sea can sometimes surround the unwary, quickly cutting them off from shore.

Local media reported the Chinese cockle hunters may be migrant workers.

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