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.
— 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.
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.
— 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.
— 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.