March 8 (UPI) — Malta’s Prime Minister Joseph Muscat announced that the country’s iconic Azure Window natural rock arch has collapsed into the sea.
The limestone formation — known in Malta as Tieqa tad-Dwejra — has been featured in several films and television shows, such as “Game of Thrones” and 2002’s “The Count of Monte Cristo.”
Muscat called the collapse of the arch “heartbreaking.”
“I have just been informed that the beautiful Tieqa tad-Dwejra in Gozo has collapsed,” Muscat said in a statement. “Reports commissioned over the years indicated that this landmark would be hard hit by unavoidable natural corrosion. That sad day arrived.”
The arch was part of the island of Gozo, one of 21 islands that make up the archipelago that constitutes Malta, south of Sicily in the Mediterranean Sea.
The Times of Malta reported there was a storm at the time of the collapse, a storm that was strong enough to lead the Gozo Channel ferry company to suspend services. Malta Environment Minister Jose Herrera said in a press conference that studies showed man-made intervention could not have prevented the collapse.
Several witnesses were near the rock formation at the time of the collapse.
“There was a big raging sea beneath the window. Suddenly, the arch collapsed into the sea,” Roger Chessell, from the village of Xaghra, told the Times of Malta. “Suddenly, the arch collapsed into the sea with a loud whoomph, throwing up a huge spray. By the time the spray had faded, the stack had gone too.”
Malta Tourism Minister Edward Zammit Lewis said the Azure Window was a marketing asset that has been lost, but suggested tourism in Gozo would adjust.
“The flagship of the Gozitan touristic sites has sunk in its same birth place from where for thousands of years, it stood high and proud heralding one of the natural beauties our little island is endowed with,” the Gozo Tourism Association said in a statement. “The much-promoted Azure window is no more, and only millions of photographs remain as testimony of this touristic spot.”