UK faces further storms and high tides

A UKIP councillor has said the country had been 'beset by storms' since the passage of the new law on gay marriage.
A UKIP councillor has said the country had been 'beset by storms' since the passage of the new law on gay marriage.

Further storms, high tides and gale-force winds are expected across many parts of the UK over the weekend as communities already hit by a trail of devastation begin to assess the damage.

Hundreds of homes have been flooded from Cornwall to Scotland, with miles of coastline battered and roads and fields across the country left under water.

The Met Office has issued yellow warnings of rain in the south of England and snow in the north of England and southern parts of Scotland. Up to 30mm (1.1in) of rain could fall in just six hours, and there are more warnings of flooding and travel disruption.

Residents in Chiswell and Portland in Weymouth, Dorset, were evacuated ahead of high tide last night, while around 100 people living in Aberystwyth, Dyfed, were advised to move to higher ground, with many taking shelter in rest centres.

Meanwhile, searches resumed this morning in south Devon for missing 18-year-old Harry Martin - with more than 100 people volunteering to look for him.

The university student was last seen on Thursday afternoon leaving his home in Newton Ferrers, near Plymouth, to take photographs of the bad weather.

A Devon and Cornwall Police spokesman said: “The police, Devon Rescue Group, Coastguard, specialist search dogs and members of the public are continuing to search for Harry.

“Over 100 members of the public have volunteered to assist with searches in the local area of Newton Ferrers. We advise the public not to put themselves at risk.”

Two people have already died in the storms. A 27-year-old man from Surrey was found on Porthleven Sands beach in Cornwall after he was swept out to sea on New Year’s Eve night, and a woman died after being rescued from the sea in Croyde Bay, north Devon.

The ferocious weather has left widespread damage. In Aberystwyth debris was strewn across the promenade, rail lines in north Wales were left buckled by the power of the sea and a road collapsed in Amroth, Pembrokeshire.

Aberystwyth University student Millie Farmer said the town’s promenade was a “complete mess”

Miss Farmer, a second year geography student, estimated that hundreds of thousands of pounds worth of damage had been done.

“They’re starting to clear up. It’s a complete mess,” said Miss Farmer, 19, who comes from Shepreth, Cambridgeshire.

“You can’t see the road. The promenade slabs have been scattered everywhere. It’s an extension of the beach.

“It’s a real shame. The front was damaged by storms a few weeks ago. They’d only just repaired it. Now it’s been ruined again.”

Miss Farmer said seafront properties had been evacuated yesterday and rescue centres set up. She said waves had been “spectacular”.

“The weather today is nothing like as bad as it was yesterday,” she said. “But it was still pretty scary this morning. The waves hitting the front were twice as high as me - and I’m not far off six feet.”

This morning’s high tide caused some localised flooding to Looe and Port Gaverne in Cornwall but was not as bad as feared. Land’s End Airport has also been closed due to a flooded airfield.

Emergency services rescued four people from a flooded farm in Llanbedr near Barmouth, north west Wales, the River Severn burst its banks in Gloucestershire and a pregnant woman was rescued after 30 properties were flooded in Cardigan, mid-Wales.

Officials around the country have pleaded with people to keep away as dozens put their life at risk by going to coastal areas to watch as the storm brought waves up to 40ft high crashing on to land.

A man and child were almost swept away by a huge wave at Mullion Cove in Cornwall as they peered over the sea wall to watch the raging sea, and elsewhere in Cornwall vehicles driving on a coastal road were swamped and almost washed away by a tidal surge.

People across the UK, from Devon to Cumbria and Sussex, protected their homes with sand bags and flood gates as the waters rose around them.

This morning there were four severe flood warnings in place - meaning a danger to life - along the Severn Estuary in Gloucestershire and in Dorset, with a further 103 flood warnings and 237 flood alerts.

There are also delays at the Port of Dover because of force five winds, while the Highways Agency said the M48 Severn Crossing has been re-opened in both directions to all vehicles.

Trains have also suffered disruption with services from Newport and Bristol to the south coast affected by the weather.

Rail operator First Great Western was warning passengers that further rain and strong winds forecast for tomorrow afternoon “may result in further disruption affecting our routes in Devon and Cornwall”.

As the New Year storms continued, the Government came under fire yesterday as it was revealed an estimated 1,700 jobs are to be axed at the Environment Agency (EA), with 550 staff from the floods team to go.

Environment Secretary Owen Paterson said front-line flood defences would be protected after the EA’s chief executive Paul Leinster said risk maintenance would be “impacted” and work on flood warnings would “have to be resized”.

Leslie Manasseh, deputy general secretary of trade union Prospect, called on the Government to stop the cuts.

“Last week David Cameron praised Environment Agency staff for doing an amazing job with the floods and extreme weather. It’s typical that as soon as there is a crisis, the politicians immediately turn to the specialists and professionals with the scientific knowledge and skills to step in and protect the public,” he said.

The south and west coast of England and the Severn estuary still remain at risk of coastal flooding throughout the weekend and into the early part of next week, the Environment Agency has warned.

Parts of the North East coast including Whitby and South Shields could see flooding, while parts of the south coast, including Portsmouth and Newhaven could see more coastal flooding over the next two days.

Currently there are no severe flood warnings in force. However, there are 86 flood warnings and 256 flood alerts across England and Wales.

Further inland heavy rain has left ground saturated, increasing the risk of river and surface water flooding, the Environment Agency said.

In particular, there is an increased risk of flooding risk to Weybridge and Guildford on Sunday and into Monday, while communities along the non-tidal Thames, including Oxford and Osney could be at risk from Sunday and into next week as the peak flow moves along the river.

Environment Agency teams are on standby to deploy demountable defences in these areas. Also at risk are communities along the River Severn in Gloucestershire and on the Somerset Levels.

Rivers are also likely to rise in response to the rainfall in Dorset, Hampshire and Wiltshire. Further wet and windy conditions forecast over the weekend could exacerbate problems in already saturated areas.

Environment Agency teams continue to work around the clock checking and maintaining flood defences, clearing blockages in watercourses, deploying temporary defences, monitoring water levels and issuing flood warnings where necessary.

Most recent estimates suggest that around 90 properties have flooded since Friday, bringing the total number of properties flooded to around 220.

The coastal surge in recent days has tested over 3,000km of flood defences in England and over 205,000 properties have been protected.

The Thames barrier was again closed in the early hours of Saturday morning against the high tide, and will continue to close to protect people and property along the Thames.

Natural Resources Wales, the organisation which leads on flooding in Wales, has issued warnings to communities along the coastline of Wales.

Jonathan Day, flood risk manager at the Environment Agency, said: “The risk of flooding to the coast will continue over the next few days, especially on the south and west coast and along the Severn estuary.

“In addition, wet conditions have left the ground saturated in many areas, increasing the risk of river and surface water flooding.

“We would urge people to be prepared by checking their flood risk, signing up to free flood warnings and keeping an eye on the latest flood updates via the EA website and Twitter.

“We have protected over 200,000 properties across the country over the past 48 hours, and the Environment Agency will continue to work around the clock to protect communities.”

Meanwhile, a man was pulled from the sea in Cornwall by police officers early today after ignoring warnings about the fierce storms.

The man had to be rescued after going into the sea at around 4.30am at Newquay.

He was seen in waist high water by police and was dragged from the sea by Sergeant Regie Butler and other officers and taken to hospital.

Police secured a line to Mr Butler, who waded out to pull the man to shore at Towan Beach, because there was not time to wait for other emergency services to get there.

Mr Butler tweeted: “Great teamwork by my team again tonight rescuing male from sea. All played vital role, speed was essential.

“Not enough time for other emergency rescue services to get there, casualty was in danger, we had chance to rescue him.”

The officer added: “Not heroes, just cops doing what cops do. Was an ‘interesting’ few minutes.”

In Wales, all the severe flood warnings for coastal areas have been lifted with only two flood warnings remaining - one for undefended areas of the River Wye at Monmouth and in the Lower Dee Valley.

Natural Resources Wales said the storm was the worst to have affected the south and west Wales coastline in 15 years.

Emergency response workers for the agency will now focus on checking important defences and repairing any damage caused by the storm and assisting partners to help communities recover.

Workers in key locations overnight carried out repairs at defences in Fairbourne and Newton, near Porthcawl, to protect homes and businesses.

Natural Resources Wales said that although the situation has eased, teams are continuing to monitor closely as more high winds are forecast for Monday but said the risk of flooding is not likely to be as severe as it was on Friday.

There is also heavy rain forecast for Sunday into Monday which will make driving conditions dangerous on the roads but the risk of flooding to homes is low.

Natural Resources Wales is continuing to advise people to avoid going close to sea fronts as conditions continue to be dangerous, especially as they could be damaged by the recent storm.

At the height of the tide on Friday, Natural Resources Wales had issued almost 23,000 warnings and alerts to properties across Wales.

“Our thoughts are with those who have been affected in what will be a very difficult start to the year for many. We will be working with our partners to support those communities and help them recover,” a spokesman said.

“Although the worst is over, there is further stormy weather forecast for Monday so we will be monitoring very closely.

“This is not predicted to be as bad but it will still make the coast a dangerous place to be.

“We have invested more than £20 million specifically in coastal defences since 2006 at places like Fairbourne, Newport and the Clwyd Embankments.

“We will continue with this important work and keep working with communities to help them prepare and make sure people are kept safe.”

Aberystwyth University was deferring the start of the examination period by one week and was advising students not to travel to the coastal town until the middle of next week because of the severe weather.

Arriva Trains Wales services are also being significantly disrupted due to flooding and alternative buses are being laid on for passengers.

The line between Machynlleth and Pwllheli is expected to remain closed for several weeks due to extensive damage caused by the flooding and services from Llanelli and Carmarthen have been affected due to damage to the sea wall at Pembrey.

Part of the sea wall behind the Landmark Theatre in Ilfracombe, north Devon, has collapsed following the recent storms and high tides.

Police have closed the bottom car park where the collapse has taken place and North Devon Council engineers have arranged for the area affected to be fenced off.

The public are warned to keep away as it is dangerous, particularly at high tide.

Meanwhile, people in north Devon are advised to remain vigilant over the weekend. Despite the high tides lowering, further rain could still create surface water on local roads and could lead to localised flooding.

Councillor Yvette Gubb, lead member for emergency planning, said: “We are working closely with all the local emergency services to remain on top of the situation and although the worst seems to be over for now, we urge people not to become complacent and still take extra care.”