TORN from the ground by the raging sea, their contents strewn down the beach, the homes pictured here are among those devastated by Britain’s worst storm surge in 60 years.
Three houses in the village of Hemsby, Norfolk, collapsed into the sea as ferocious waves swept away huge chunks of the coastline, while four more were badly damaged.
The flood, likened to a ‘mini tsunami’, twice swept down the east coast. A third surge is due to hit some areas today.
Seaside towns and villages from Northumberland to Kent were left ‘battered and bruised’, in the words of one exhausted police officer, as the waves overcame defences.
Police ordered 15,000 residents to abandon their homes, and many spent the night huddled in sports halls.
Yesterday the flood waters receded but a third high tide will hit this morning, although the waves are not expected to be as big.
In Norfolk, the worst-hit area, people were told they could return to their homes last night. But Environment Secretary Owen Paterson, who chaired a meeting of the Government’s emergency Cobra committee yesterday, said: ‘I would stress that this is not over.
‘There will still be exceptionally high tides today and tomorrow, and I would urge everybody to pay very close attention to advice from the Environment Agency and also to follow instructions from the police, local government and emergency services.
‘Conditions like this only occur in some places every 500 years.’
Up and down the coast, those affected were counting the cost of the damage. In Hemsby, Steven Connelly, 54, and his wife Jackie, 64, rescued their three-month-old kittens Tom and Jerry five minutes before their home was destroyed.
Only the patio doors and a rear window were left standing as the $A105,900 brick-built home was torn in two.
Mr and Mrs Connelly, who have been married for 22 years, had been out for the evening. As the storm grew worse they returned home and rushed inside to retrieve their cats and valuables, with neighbours forming a human chain to help.
Mr Connelly, a former warehouseman, said: ‘I slammed the patio door shut and a few moments later the kitchen and the bathroom and loo slipped off the cliff. I just thought, “That’s it. Our home has gone”.
He added: ‘We are basically homeless. I’ve read the insurance policy and we’re not covered for coastal erosion.’
Seven years ago, when they bought their home, it was about 8ft from the edge of the cliff. But the land had slowly eroded away, leaving it 2ft from the edge.
Robin Adams also watched helplessly as his bungalow disappeared down the cliff in Hemsby. ‘In half an hour the sea had lifted the bungalow up and folded it over and carried it away,’ he told the Guardian.
A spokesman for Great Yarmouth borough council said: ‘Three properties were lost down the cliff edge last night [in Hemsby], and four properties are seriously undermined.’
A spokesman for Zurich Insurance said whether a property was covered or not would depend on the individual policy, for example if it included flood cover or had any exclusions.
Elsewhere, local authorities were faced with significant repair bills after water breached the defences. In Cromer, Norfolk, the surge devastated the promenade. Railings were left broken and twisted and lumps of concrete, broken seats and litter bins were strewn across the seafront.
In Lowestoft, Suffolk, shops and businesses were badly damaged by the floods. Steve Clemmett, 63, who owns the Lowestoft Carpet and Rug Company, estimated that his store had suffered up to Pound20,000 of damage. He said: ‘We tried to protect the door with seven sandbags and plywood, but the street flooded at around 9.30pm and water poured in.’
In Boston, Lincolnshire, authorities said the town faced an estimated Pound4 million repair bill after water spilt over the flood defences.
Firefighters used boats and rafts to rescue people from 210 flooded properties in the town.
In Essex, the fire service said a woman and baby were rescued from flood waters at Brightlingsea Marina.
In Broadstairs, Kent, two women, two babies in pushchairs and a dog were rescued after being hit by a large wave.
And in Port Clarence, on the north bank of the Tees from Middlesbrough, sewage flowed into houses as drains burst.
The storms, which first swept across the country late on Wednesday night, have claimed two lives.
John White, 83, was killed by a falling tree in a park in Retford, Nottinghamshire. And a lorry driver killed when his HGV was blown over in West Lothian, Scotland, was named as Robert Dellow, 54, from Lowestoft.