4pm floods latest: Police warn of big shortfall of rest centre places as thousands prepare for Great Yarmouth evacuation

Preparations for possible flooding in the Yarmouth area.People filling sandbags.

Preparations for possible flooding in the Yarmouth area.People filling sandbags. - Credit: Nick Butcher

Up to 15,000 people could be evacuated from their Great Yarmouth homes over the coming two days - even though there are just 1,500 places available at rest centres.

As the fierce Arctic storm roared down the coast and headed towards Norfolk, temporary chief supt Roger Wiltshire urged as many people as possible to seek safety with friends and relatives.

At a press conference at Great Yarmouth police station, he warned that the danger was 'not a short-term issue', with three potentially dangerous storm surges expected today and tomorrow.

He said: 'For those of you who were in the Yarmouth area in 2008, this flood warning is more severe. In 2008 we did advise people to evacuate their homes and flood water was very narrowly below the defences so there was no flooding. I need to emphasise that event is more severe than the one in 2008.

'There are officers visiting the 9,000 homes in the affected areas, advising them to make arrangements to stay with friends or family and to evacuate their homes for their own safety.'

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He added: 'If people are unable to do this due to illness or disability, you can contact police or the district council and arrangements can be made to take you to one of the seven rest centre we have set up across the borough or to another a place of safety.

'There are a limited places at the respite centre across the borough.'

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Chief supt Wiltshire said the first high tide was at 10.45pm tonight, then at 10am tomorrow and the third tomorrow evening at about 9.30pm-10pm.

He said: 'This is a 36-48 hour evacuation. It's really important people understand that.

'We understand that we can't make people leave their homes, but we would encourage them to leave especially if there are elderly residents or young children.'

Asked if officers will be available through the night and into tomorrow, Mr Wiltshire said dozens of extra officers had been drafted in and would remain until the emergency was over.

Leader of Great Yarmouth Borough Council Trevor Wainwright added that council staff would be on hand at the Town Hall and rest centres.

There is also a 24 hour telephone helpline: 01493 856100.

Mr Wainwright said that while the region had a 'good resilience plan in place', this was a serious situation.

'We have to look back to 1953 floods,' he said.

'This is very serious situation we're in. The projected surge is a foot higher than in 2008 and, in that case, it will reach the walls and breach our defences.'

He estimated that 15,000 people - 'maybe more' - could be displaced if the flood arrives.

And with only 1,500 places available at the rest centres, people who evacuate are asked to seek safety with friends and relatives in the first instance.

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