Tidal Surge: It could be third time unlucky if residents play down threat

PUBLISHED: 15:40 25 January 2017 | UPDATED: 17:57 25 January 2017

The River Yare approaching high tide in Great Yarmouth, at 8.30am on Friday 13th January 2017.

The River Yare approaching high tide in Great Yarmouth, at 8.30am on Friday 13th January 2017. Picture: ANTONY KELLY

Archant Norfolk 2017

Complacency stemming from this month’s near-miss storm-surge could hamper evacuation plans in the future.

The fleet of Centre 81 buses passing through the town.The fleet of Centre 81 buses passing through the town.

Centre 81’s fleet of disabled-friendly buses was pressed into action as part of the battle to protect the community on Friday January 13.

But Diana Staines, CEO of the Tarworks Road skills and activities centre, said she feared that thousands of people who stubbornly stayed put may play down the risk in the future.

She said: “We used nine of our fully accessible minibuses to evacuate residents from Great Yarmouth. In total we evacuated 84 people, 44 of these were wheelchair dependent, another four needed to borrow our wheelchairs to get to and from the buses.

“All of these required the tail lift and support of our drivers to get on and off the buses. They were accompanied by a further nine people with their rollators (walking frames on wheels), 27 people who were able to access the buses independently via the side steps, plus two dogs and a very unhappy cat.

One of Centre81's buses doing its every day work helping people.One of Centre81's buses doing its every day work helping people.

“In contrast to 2013 when we evacuated six residential homes to various establishments in Great Yarmouth, Lowestoft, Acle and Norwich, we were asked to evacuate only one residential home which had made arrangements for their residents to move to other ‘sister’ residential homes.

“The evacuation was much better co-ordinated from our perspective than in 2013, as all requests for our assistance came via travel and transport colleagues at Norfolk County Council.”

Having completed its de-brief Mrs Staines said there were concerns for the future particularly around the number of people who decided not to leave their homes, and may consider in hindsight that they made the right choice.

She said: “Residents made the decision not to leave their homes. A similar stance appeared to be taken by those who manage residential homes with or without nursing. “As the tidal surge did not happen I am sure that many people would consider this ‘evidence’ that they made the right decision.

“Next time there is a predicted threat to life, limb and property there is the possibility that many will base their decision on their response to the last forecast surge and will not want to evacuate until the 11th hour.

“If this does happen and the sea and river defences are breached, those involved in evacuating people could face extremely high demands for assistance within a very short period of time.”

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