Health alert for tide surge victims

Ealing Times: Blackpool Main Promenade under flood water following high tide and a tidal surge as severe gale force winds hit many parts of the UK Blackpool Main Promenade under flood water following high tide and a tidal surge as severe gale force winds hit many parts of the UK

Communities affected by the most serious tidal surge in 60 years along the east coast of Britain have been warned to avoid direct contact with floodwater and beware of rats moving into homes.

Thousands of people who were evacuated from their homes will be assessing the damage after finally being allowed to return to their properties yesterday.

A major clean-up operation is under way after the Environment Agency (EA) said 1,400 homes were flooded, including 300 in Boston, Lincolnshire, alone.

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.

Improving weather last night saw floods recede in many areas, and the EA removed more than 200 flood warnings.

There were no severe flood warnings and just one flood warning in place as of 1pm.

Emergency services downgraded risk levels, and the majority of people evacuated from their homes have left rest centres.

The fierce Atlantic storm caused widespread disruption and claimed two lives.

Record-breaking sea levels were recorded along the east coast through a combination of large waves and a tidal surge, the EA said.

The Thames Barrier, which had faced the biggest tide since it opened in 1982, reopened yesterday afternoon.

Improved flood defences stopped the largest North Sea surge since 1953 from causing even more chaos, protecting at least 800,000 homes.

But even with modern protection some areas suffered severe damage.

EA teams are expected to inspect and repair damage to walls, banks and other defences over the coming days.

Devastated residents in Hemsby, Norfolk, watched their cliff-top homes disappear into the sea as the tidal surge hit on Thursday night.

Five bungalows fell into the water as the high tide eroded the cliff below, while dozens of residents formed a human chain to help salvage the possessions of those affected. A lifeboat station was also reportedly washed into the sea.

Meanwhile, about 250 seal pups are thought to be missing from a breeding ground in Horsey, Norfolk, following a second tidal surge yesterday afternoon.

Hundreds of people were evacuated in Boston, Lincolnshire, and Clacton-on-Sea in Essex, where many people living in the area around the town's railway station had to leave their homes or take shelter on upper floors as water swept through houses on Thursday.

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

The two people who died on Thursday were lorry driver Robert Dellow, 54, from Lowestoft in Suffolk, whose vehicle overturned in West Lothian, Scotland, and an 83-year-old man who was hit by a falling tree in Retford, Nottinghamshire.

Dr Paul Leinster, chief executive of the EA, said : "Our thoughts remain with those people who have been affected by flooding. People can find advice on how to recover from a flood on our website or by calling Floodline on 0845 988 1188.

"We continue to work with our partners to review the impact of flooding and to ensure that damage to flood walls and banks is repaired as soon as possible.

"Our staff, partners and the emergency services have worked tirelessly to issue warnings, ensure that flood risk management assets were in place and move people to safety. Without their efforts the impacts of this storm could have been far worse.

"Over the last three days we issued an unprecedented number of severe flood warnings. These early warnings gave emergency services, homes and businesses vital time to prepare."

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.

Shadow environment secretary Maria Eagle said: "This is an unimaginably stressful and distressing time for those who have seen their home or small business wrecked by flood water.

"Our thoughts are with them this weekend as they begin the task of cleaning up with less than three weeks before Christmas.

"The emergency services and Environment Agency staff did an excellent job in difficult and sometimes dangerous conditions and deserve our respect and thanks for keeping people safe."

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