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‘Immense relief’ as Great Yarmouth area escapes serious flooding

PUBLISHED: 23:07 13 January 2017 | UPDATED: 13:25 14 January 2017

The River Yare at it's highest point under the Haven Bridge. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

The River Yare at it's highest point under the Haven Bridge. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Copyright: Archant 2017

Residents in and around Great Yarmouth breathed a sigh of relief as a tidal surge - which threatened to be as bad as that of 2013 - was not as serious as expected.

Members of the public on Yarmouth beach to watch the tidal surge despite warnings to stay away. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY Members of the public on Yarmouth beach to watch the tidal surge despite warnings to stay away. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Around 6,000 homes were evacuated and members of the military were called in on standby after it was thought sea walls could be breached and properties hit by flooding.

The historic Market Place was turned into a command centre with military vehicles flanking those of the emergency services.

But although the area braced for the worst, at high tide at 9.30pm, members of the public still lined the river bank, and stood close to beaches, without incident..

Four evacuation centres were set up at Caister Academy, Cliff Park Ormiston Academy, Ormiston Venture Academy, and Christ Church in King Street, but Norfolk Police’s Chief Inspector Nathan Clark said only 60pc of people told to evacuate did so.

The search and rescue crews ready at Yarmouth. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY The search and rescue crews ready at Yarmouth. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

And this was not the only advice which was ignored, as groups of people walked along Great Yarmouth beach and out on a jetty, against emergency services’ advice, to get a good view of the tide coming in.
On North Quay, police officers kept members of the public away from access to the water, which had submerged some riverside benches, but had not made it over the sea walls.

Whilst the towns of Yarmouth and Gorleston managed to escape most of the damage, one man was arrested after he jumped into the River Yare when asked to move away from the water for his own safety.

And coastal villages looked to be affected by erosion.

Daniel Hurd, coxswain at Hemsby Lifeboat, said he expected the erosion damage on the village’s coast to be worse than that seen in 2013 when seven cliff-top homes were washed into the sea.

The army at the ready at Yarmouth. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY The army at the ready at Yarmouth. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

But he said this time only two properties were thought to be at risk.

“This is going to be worse than 2013. The swell is not as big but the damage looks like it will be worse,” he said.

An extra rest centre was opened in the village at the community centre – the first opened at the village hall in the afternoon – to cater for people seeking refuge.

There were also some people evacuated south of Hemsby Lifeboat shed.

The search and rescue crews ready at Yarmouth. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY The search and rescue crews ready at Yarmouth. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Mr Hurd was concerned about who would pay to repair the damage done at Hemsby beach, where he said scouring had seriously damaged the coastline.

Karl Bensley and his partner Amanda Shields, who live in Martham, were also on scene to help.

Mr Bensley said: “We were cooking our dinner and just wanted to go down and see if we could help with our two 4x4 vehicles.

“The lifeboat crew are doing such a good job we wanted to lend a hand.”

The River Yare at it's highest point over the banks near the White Swan. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY The River Yare at it's highest point over the banks near the White Swan. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Leader of Great Yarmouth Borough Council Graham Plant said he felt “immense relief” which he felt was echoed across the region.

Fears for repeat of 2013

It had been feared tonight’s tidal surge could cause damage reminiscent of that caused in 2013.

In an email sent by the Coastguard earlier in the day, it was warned that sea levels such as those experienced four years ago were expected, when homes were lost and Cromer Pier was split into two.

In the event, there was no property affected in Great Yarmouth, but it remains to be seen what damage may have been done to the coastline, as Hemsby Lifeboat coxswain Daniel Hurd said machinery would have to be used to repair damage there.

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