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4 Jan, 2014 09:58

UK swept by destructive, ‘17 year-high’ tidal surge (PHOTOS)

UK swept by destructive, ‘17 year-high’ tidal surge (PHOTOS)

Coastal areas in the south and west of the UK have been swept with waves of up to 10 meters (30 feet) high, causing flooding and destruction. With around a hundred flood warnings active on Saturday, the country could yet expect more severe storms.

Gale force winds accompanied by monster waves, twice the height of a double-decker bus, eroded Britain’s Atlantic coast on Friday. Dozens of houses were flooded, piers damaged, roads and railway tracks, including major ones, affected.

At Heathrow several flights had trouble landing because of the wind, while connections to and from Gatwick were hampered by the bad weather.

With more severe weather, it's important people in threatened areas keep up to date through local media, @metoffice and @EnvAgency.

— David Cameron (@David_Cameron) January 4, 2014

More than a hundred flood warnings were issued by Environment Agency Saturday morning. Four of those were severe. That was one-fifth Friday’s rate. However weather forecasts for the coming days say it’s not yet time to relax.

"We certainly do have worse to come, we know that we've got another band of weather coming in on Sunday which is going to bring along what we call fluvial flooding, that's flooding to the rivers," The Telegraph cited warning from Chris Bainger, spokesperson for the Environment Agency.

The areas of particular risk pinpointed by the agency included the Devon and Cornwall coastlines, Dorset, the Welsh coast and the Scilly Isles.

Waves crash over the promenade at hightide in Saundersfoot, in west Wales January 3, 2014. (Reuters/Rebecca Naden)

Natural Resources Wales’ statement predicted the region was going to be exposed to “the highest tide to hit the whole Welsh coast since 1997.”

Some of the residents of Newport in south Wales were evacuated on Friday. People in the “yellow-alert” areas across Britain have been told to have their bags packed in case of an emergency.

The bad weather has also affected Northern Ireland, where in Belfast police have been delivering sandbags and have issued a warning to people in the Sydenham and Docks areas to prepare for potential flooding and the possibility of evacuation, according to The Belfast Telegraph.

The Prime Minister David Cameron tweeted his thanks to the emergency services and said that 200,000 properties have been protected by flood defenses over the last 36 hours.

Great work by emergency services & @EnvAgency helping people flooded. 200000 properties have been protected by flood defences in last 36hrs.

— David Cameron (@David_Cameron) January 4, 2014

The rough weather attracted a lot of sightseers to the piers and harbors, despite police cautions for people to stay away from seafront areas. Social networks of UK internet users have been deluged with images of the enormous waves and their impact.

#Aberystwyth#storm We advise that you don't kick the bar today. pic.twitter.com/vrI8HGCZJM

— Mark Lewis (@MarkWaun) January 3, 2014

18-year-old Harry Martin went missing on cliffs near Plymouth, Devon, after he told friends he was going to take photographs of the Atlantic storm, the Daily Mail reported.

'There is colossal power in these waves that can knock people off their feet. We would advise people to keep well away. There have already been two fatalities this year already and urge you not to add to those statistics,” the Environmental Agency’s spokesman said.

Winds and waves have in some areas been accompanied by showers of huge hailstones.

This is what's falling from the sky in #wilts (& I've got big hands) #stormpic.twitter.com/QLJveHK3qS

— James Aldridge (@jamesaldridge4) January 3, 2014

The weather-caused havoc prompted a meeting by the government’s emergency Cobra committee on Friday. The issue of austerity cuts appeared high on the agenda. The Environment Agency will be forced to cut more than 1,600 posts, including an estimated 550 staff employed on flood protection, by October.

To say glibly that everybody has got to make cuts is a rather simplistic approach and I can’t imagine that people whose homes have been flooded are going to be comforted by that kind of statement,” The Independent reported Leslie Manasseh, deputy general secretary of the Prospect union, as saying.

Last year saw a record number of flood alerts and warnings in Britain. December was the stormiest month since 1969, according to the Met Office.

Waves crash against the coastal wall in the village of Carnlough as high tides and strong winds cause some flooding in coastal areas of Northern Ireland January 3, 2014. (Reuters/Cathal McNaughton)

Holiday chalets at Carmarthen Bay Holiday Park are surrounded by flood water caused by high tides in Kidwelly, West Wales, January 3, 2014. (Reuters/Rebecca Naden)

A man photographs Brighton Pier in southern England in southern England on January 3, 2014 as waves strike after a high tide. (AFP Photo/Carl Court)

This handout picture received from the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) on January 3, 2014 shows a man rowing a boat down the flooded main street following a high tide at Salcombe in Devon, southwest England. (AFP/RNLI)