Early morning beachgoers in Maryland, US, made a harrowing discovery on Monday (31 July) – the body of a young woman buried under the sand.

Police were called after the hand and forearm of the woman were seen sticking out of the sand at around 6.30am on a stretch of beach in Ocean City.

Detectives and forensic teams took nearly 10 hours to remove the body as they investigated whether the death was criminal or accidental.

The beach was closed for about half a block in both directions near 2nd Street as a result.

The woman was later identified as Ashley O'Connor, of Plano, Texas, who was in Ocean City on vacation, the Delmarva Daily Times reported.

She was reportedly separated from her family at around 2am on Monday.

Ocean City officials said O'Connor's death appears to be accidental but that they've not ruled anything out. "The victim was in a hole on the beach," Ocean City spokeswoman Jessica Waters said.

The body was removed at around 4.15pm and was taken to be evaluated by the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, who will determine the cause and manner of death.