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Relief as east coast storm surge fails to wreak havoc

Flood-threatened residents have expressed relief on parts of Britain's east coast as a feared storm surge was not as bad as expected - but Essex is still bracing itself for the high tide.

Thousands were evacuated from their homes as t he Environment Agency (EA) issued 17 severe warnings - which warn of danger to life - with those in Norfolk, Suffolk and Essex told they were most at risk.

Residents on the east coast waited for the storm surge to hit during the second high tide, with gale-force winds and higher than usual tides expected to bring waves crashing over coastal defences.

The risk of flooding in Great Yarmouth was expected to peak at around 9.30pm - but the worst fears of the people in the area were not realised.

Charles Osborne, 52, from Great Yarmouth, said: "The river did get pretty high but I didn't think it would ever go over the walls. I guess it was a lot of panicking but you can't be too careful."

Jess Hudson, 19, from Gorleston-on-Sea, Norfolk, said: "I didn't think it would be as bad as before (when floods hit in 2013) but people were worried and they'll be relieved the worst seems to have passed.

"I was surprised at the number of people who stayed in their homes when they were asked to leave. If it was me, I wouldn't want to risk that."

Lynda Freeman, 31, of Norfolk, said: "I'm just glad it's all over. Seeing the army on the streets and the warnings did get me a bit anxious."

Dozens flocked to the banks in Great Yarmouth and Gorleston-on-Sea to watch the river Yare and Bute swell as high tide approached at 9.45pm.

The Haven Bridge was one of the focal points for spectators as the pedestrian walkway was filled with people pointing their smartphone cameras towards the river - several feet short of breaching the walls.

In nearby Gorleston, waves licked against the walls splashing those who were too eager to get a look at the fast-flowing Yare.

The emergency services and army were a frequent sight on the streets of the Norfolk town ahead of the predicted storm surge, but were called off as it appeared the area has swerved the worst of the weather.

According to its live incidents web page, Norfolk Fire & Rescue Service attended a few incidents to "assist with flooding", including rescuing people stuck in flood water, and assisting "with emergency lighting at an evacuation centre" in Walcott.

Police said a man was arrested for public order offences after jumping into the river in Great Yarmouth.

Officers were alerted to a man acting dangerously next to the River Yare near Haven Bridge at around 9.10pm. When asked to move away from the water for his own safety, the man jumped in.

Police said he was recovered from the water immediately and arrested.

Superintendent Dave Buckley said: "Despite numerous warnings from police and our partner agencies to stay away from the water, a small number of people do not seem to be taking this message seriously.

"Whilst we appreciate scenes of high water and strong waves can be impressive, it poses a significant danger and we would urge people to stay away for their own safety.

"Anyone who does attempt to get too close to the water in these areas will be moved on by officers."

Evacuations also took place in Jaywick, Mistley and Mersea in Essex, and residents in 1,800 properties in east Suffolk were also told to leave their homes.

High tide in Jaywick, Mistley and West Mersea was expected at 15 minutes past midnight.

Rest centres were set up in areas affected by the flooding, but Essex Police said that at around 6pm no one had registered at the Mersea rest centre.

The EA moved more than five miles of temporary barriers and 25 pumps to depots and towns along the east coast.

The Chief Fire Officers Association said it had mobilised 15 fire and rescue services to assist in Lincolnshire, Norfolk, Suffolk and Humberside.

The flooding threat came as Britain i s being battered by wintry conditions, with severe Met Office weather warnings for ice in place across the country.


From Belfast Telegraph