TENS of thousands of people were warned to leave their homes on the most vulnerable parts of the North Sea coast last night as devastating surge tides swamped communities.
One of the biggest alerts was sounded in Boston, Lincolnshire, where 18,000 households were urged to leave their homes or seek shelter upstairs.
Floodwaters inundated large parts of the town and surrounding areas at high tide, and transport in the area was badly disrupted.
In Norfolk, people in 10,000 homes were urged to leave as local officials attempted to stem the damage from the coastal surge, with Kings Lynn and Wells-next-the-Sea among those hit by flooding well ahead of the high tide. The Army was drafted in to set up flood barriers in Gorleston.
A further 1,000 properties were affected areas in Suffolk – among them in the town of Southwold – and some residents in Clacton-on-Sea in Essex were also being urged to leave their homes.
Further evacuations took place in Sandwich, Kent.
At Blakeney in north Norfolk, the water breached the quay at about 5.30pm.
Within 30 minutes the floods had advanced about 50 metres up the village’s main street.
Allan Urquhart, who has lived on the seafront, brought a rowing boat to the King’s Arm pub to collect a friend.
He said: “I’m going to row back to the house and we’ll stay upstairs tonight.
“We’ve put sandbags in place so hopefully we’ll be OK, I’m as confident as I can be.
“This is the worst flooding I’ve seen so it could be a difficult night for lots of people.”
Drew Taylor, from the neighbouring village of Cley next the Sea, said it was the worst flooding he had seen since 1978.
“This is far beyond normal,” he added.
“The speed it’s advancing at is a real worry.”