UK & World News

  • 7 December 2013, 18:07

Weather: Tidal Surge Clean Up Under Way

The task of cleaning and repairing flood-damaged homes is under way after a tidal surge so powerful it swept some houses into the waves.

The swollen sea flooded 1,400 properties across the country overnight on Thursday in coastal communities stretching from North Wales to Essex.

It was the most serious tidal surge to hit Britain for more than 60 years, and the Environment Agency said high tides on Saturday could cause more flooding in areas already inundated with water.

But the number of flood warnings and alerts has been reduced with fewer than 50 now in place, and no severe flood warnings, which are issued when flooding poses a "significant threat to life".

Susan Telford and Paul Citrine are still struggling to get through to their insurers after their home in Rhyl, north Wales, was left coated in mud once the waters receded.

Ms Telford said: "It's just a waiting game now, I suppose, and a long clean up...but we're lucky. We've got our health and we've got each other and material things can be replaced."

At Hemsby in Norfolk some homes are gone for good. The sheer power of the sea swept three over the sandy cliff and others were left teetering precariously.

Pub landlord Jonathan Thompson rallied his regulars to help save one family's belongings after he saw the cliff beginning to give way.

"It's heartbreaking to watch someone's entire life being swept into the sea never to be seen again," he said.

In Suffolk, police said there was no further threat from coastal flooding but local authorities warned that people should take precautions around floodwater.

These include preventing children from playing in flooded areas or with contaminated toys, discarding food grown in allotments or gardens and storing rubbish out of the reach of pests.

The Environment Agency says 800,000 properties were protected thanks to both permanent and temporary flood defences.

They helped prevent a disaster on the scale seen in 1953, when hundreds were killed.

But some barriers were breached as the tidal surge combined with high tides and strong winds.

Speaking to Sky News in Boston, Environment Secretary Owen Paterson described the situation as "quite exceptional", expressing "deepest sympathies" to the people whose properties were flooded.

He said: "The water here was two feet over this wall, two feet higher than 1953, which was a real disaster when don't forget miles of farmland was flooded and tragically 307 people were killed."

He added that during the course of this parliament there would be more spent on flood defences than previously.

The Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) said two women, two young babies in pushchairs and a dog had been rescued after being hit by a large wave at Louisa Bay in Broadstairs, Kent.

Thousands of homes in coastal areas were evacuated after officials warned that lives could be at risk.

Hundreds of people were forced to spend the night camped out in emergency rest centres.

The North Sea surge followed an Atlantic storm which brought severe gales of up to 80mph across Scotland and northern parts of England.

Some mountainous regions in Aberdeenshire and Inverness-shire reported speeds of around 140mph.

One man died after he was struck by a falling tree in a park in Retford in Nottinghamshire, while a lorry driver was killed when his HGV toppled onto a number of cars in West Lothian.

The adverse weather also caused chaos on the transport network, with rail services for Scotland and parts of the North of England suspended and number of flights disrupted.

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