Storm sweeps Hemsby, England houses into the sea: ‘We watched our kitchen get ripped apart’

December 6, 2013 8:08 PM

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LONDON — Hundreds of people in Britain mopped up flooded homes on Friday after a powerful storm that scoured northern Europe with hurricane-force gusts kicked up the biggest tidal surge in 60 years, swamping stretches of shoreline.

The rising seas prompted evacuations along the eastern English coast, with 1,400 properties flooded and at least a half-dozen communities at great risk of exceptionally high tides and large waves.

In the town of Hemsby in eastern England, several houses fell into the sea as waves eroded cliffs. It was the biggest tidal surge in Norfolk in 60 years, according to the BBC.

A local council spokesperson told the BBC that three houses fell off a cliff and four were “seriously undermined.”

“I heard a crash and the whole back part of the floor caved in. Everything went down,” Ray Mooney told the BBC.

“This is my only asset,” he said. “That’s it, I haven’t got anything else.”

“I had just done the house up to sell but now I have nothing. I’m homeless.”

Steve Connelly told the BBC he and his wife Jackie rescued their kittens before their house was lost.

“Suddenly we heard a shout ‘it’s going, it’s going’ and we watched our kitchen get ripped apart. The whole house collapsed before our eyes.

“We’re devastated at what we’ve lost but at least me, Jackie and the kittens are safe.”

Environment Secretary Owen Paterson said there would be “exceptionally high tides” on Friday and Saturday, though they were not expected to reach Thursday’s levels, when water swamped seaside promenades and flooded homes.

In London, the Thames Barrier — a series of huge metal plates that can be raised across the entire river— closed for a second time in as many days to protect the city from the surge.

Britain’s Environment Agency said that sea levels late Thursday in some areas exceeded those in a 1953 flood in which hundreds died. But flood defences and evacuation warnings meant that only two people were killed in storm-related accidents.

Accidents linked to the storm that roared across Europe Thursday have killed at least eight people, from Britain to Sweden, Denmark and Poland.

Traffic ground to a halt on icy highways and train service was cancelled in large parts of Sweden. Tens of thousands of people lost electricity. Strong winds knocked down the city of Vaxjo’s Christmas tree.

Scores of flights were cancelled at airports in Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Germany and Poland. More than 1,000 people spent the night at Copenhagen airport where 200 flights were cancelled Thursday and about 70 on Friday.

Strong winds threatened a collection of Viking ships recovered from the bottom of a Danish fjord in the 1960s and put on exhibition. Museum workers boarded up the expansive windows of the Viking Ship Museum in Roskilde 40 kilometres west of Copenhagen amid fears water from the fjord would rise and shatter the glass.

Police in Denmark ordered the evacuation of people in the towns of Frederikssund and Frederiksvaerk, 40 kilometres northeast of Copenhagen, because of imminent flooding. The towns lie on the Roskilde fjord, which has seen water levels rise noticeably.

Hamburg airport, where almost all flights were cancelled late Thursday, was open for business on Friday but cautioned that there would be cancellations because of wind and snow. Trains northward from Hamburg to Denmark and some other destinations were cancelled.

Tidal floods that hit Hamburg in the early morning were akin to those that drenched the city in 1962, causing the worst flooding in living memory. But higher and better coastal defences along the North Sea these days meant the impact of this week’s storm on the city was negligible, with no reports of major damage or loss of life.

Soccer club Werder Bremen, whose game Saturday against German champion Bayern Munich had been in doubt, announced on Twitter Friday morning that flood water hadn’t topped a levee near its stadium and the match would go ahead.

According to European Energy Exchange AG, an energy trading platform, production of wind energy in Germany surged in recent days.

At 1 p.m. local time the country’s vast network of on- and offshore wind turbines produced 25,205.8 MW of electricity — the equivalent of 25 nuclear plants and almost 35 per cent of the country’s total energy output that hour.


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