Two days ago, residents on several British shores such as Kent and East Yorkshire received an unusual wake-up on Tues., March 6 when thousands of starfish and other sea creatures washed up on shore. British photographer Lara Maiklem was one of the first people to see it when she and her 5-year-old twins went out to see the damage.

“It was shocking and sad. I’ve never seen anything like it, almost biblical in scale.” Maiklem said. “They covered the shore with a thick blanket. Most of the starfish were dead, but quite a few crabs were still alive and we tried to rescue as many as we could.”

Due to colder temperatures from Siberia, it caused these sea creatures to slow down and conserve their energy levels in order to survive. Bex Lyman is a North Sea marine advocacy officer for Yorkshire Wildlife Trust, an organization that aims to protect and conserve the wildlife and environments around Yorkshire, England.

“This [reduced activity levels] makes them more vulnerable to rough seas,” Lyman said. “They get uprooted easier.”

Western Europe has been seeing the effects of the “beast from the east” or a wave of cold temperatures from Siberia. According to weather charts of London and the Conversation, the area has seen a seven-degree temperature decrease in the past several weeks. This could be the cause of the stranding, but officials aren’t sure yet.

Emma Sheenan, a senior research fellow at Plymouth University’s Marine Institute told CNN, “At this point, we simply cannot say whether the starballing individuals were swept off the seabed by strong tidal flow, or if the individuals allowed themselves to be transported.”

The impact also goes beyond the many starfish that washed up. Kent is also dependent on marine life for their economy.

“This area is very important for shellfish and we work alongside fishermen to promote sustainable fisheries and protect reproductive stock,” Sheenan said. “It’s worth saving them so that they can be put back into the sea and breed.”

The scene was troubling to Chris Constantine, a resident of Ramsgate, a seaside town near Kent. “To see so many thousands on our beach was unsettling,” Constantine said.

“I understand that it’s a natural phenomenon,” Maiklem said. “I’m pleased that I went to see it but I wouldn’t like to see it again.”

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