jueves, 31 de enero de 2013

Great Flood of 1953: 60th anniversary events to be held - BBC News

Survivors and relatives of those killed in one of the UK's worst natural disasters will stop on Thursday to remember the floods of 1953.

Sixty years ago, the North Sea battered the east coast of England, surging over coastal defences two miles inland.

It was caused by a high spring tide, low pressure and exceptionally strong northerly gales.

The surge cost 307 lives in English coastal towns and villages. Many more died on the continent and at sea.

The Princess Royal will attend a special service at Chelmsford Cathedral to mark the anniversary.

Smaller acts of remembrance will take place across Lincolnshire, Norfolk, Suffolk and Essex.

'Tragic and terrible'

The cathedral event will bring together survivors from Essex and further afield, including representatives from the Netherlands, where 1,800 people were killed.

Peter Martin, Essex County Council leader, said: "The flood disaster of 1953 was a tragic and terrible point in Essex's history, but it nonetheless is a tremendously important event that we should remember.

"Hundreds of lives were lost, families were torn apart and thousands of homes were destroyed.

"I hope everyone in Essex takes time to remember this day in our history."

More than 60 people died on the stretch of coast between King's Lynn and Hunstanton.

About 24,000 homes were damaged and more than 30,000 people moved to safety.

More than 177 were lost at sea in fishing boats and more than 130 on the ferry Princess Victoria, which was sailing between Scotland and Ireland when she sank.

In Holland and Belgium the destruction was even worse, with more than 3,000 people killed.

More than 1,000 miles of British coast, from Shetland to Kent, was affected by the storm.

The Environment Agency said that, despite major improvements to sea defences and warning systems, 1.3m people or one in 25 homes in England and Wales remained at risk of coastal flooding.

David Rooke, the Environment Agency's director of flood and coastal risk management, said: "The extra protection and reassurance flood defences give to many communities should not be under-estimated but nor should the reality that tidal surges along the coast still happen regularly.

"We cannot afford to be complacent and the experiences in the United States during Hurricane Sandy should make us pause and reflect on the destructive power of a major coastal surge."

The floods were the catalyst for major flood defence investment, notably the Thames Barrier and Thames estuary defences which protect 1.2 million people.

Other schemes completed since 1953 include a scheme at Jaywick protecting 2,600 properties, a £6m scheme at Canvey Island and a beach replenishment programme to bolster flood defences along the Lincolnshire coast, protecting more than 23,000 homes.

In the last 10 years, more than £250 million has been spent on coastal defences in Lincolnshire, Norfolk, Suffolk and Essex.

Much of the investment has been focused on areas where there was major loss of life in 1953.

The Environment Agency added that improvements in flood forecasting, including the use of tide, wave and weather data, meant businesses and emergency responders were now better prepared.

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