Norfolk/Suffolk: 1953 Floods Remembered

31 January 2013, 06:00

Memorials are being held across Norfolk and Suffolk to mark 60 years since hundreds died in a storm surge.

On the night of 31st January 1953 gale force winds and a high tide combined to create a storm surge that swept through towns and villages along the coast.

In all 307 people died and 30,000 people had to be evacuated from their homes.

Councillor Andy Smith from Suffolk Coastal District Council told Heart: “The catastrophic East Coast Floods of 1953 will live forever in the memories of those involved, and its impact was felt from South Yorkshire down to the north coast of Kent, with 307 lives lost.

“The tragic events were a catalyst for all those responsible for coast and flood protection, and also emergency planning, to invest in new defences and proper early warning systems.

“This anniversary is an opportunity to remember those who died, and also the courage, selflessness and generosity of rescuers and local communities at the time, but also to focus on our responsibility to be always vigilant and prepared and to never be complacent”

Today, the Princess Royal will attend a special service at Chelmsford Cathedral to mark the anniversary and other remembrance services are taking place across Norfolk and Suffolk.

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

The situation is likely to be exacerbated in coming years as a result of climate change, the agency added.

David Rooke, the Environment Agency's director of flood and coastal risk management, said the anniversary would serve as a reminder of the devastation flooding can cause to lives and property.

"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.''

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 upon 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.

Some 1.2 million people are now signed up to the agency's automated flood alerts.