Cley bird reserve sunk as storm surge forces residents to flee homes on the coast

Salthouse residents were evacuated to the village hall. Picture: ALLY McGILVRAY

Salthouse residents were evacuated to the village hall. Picture: ALLY McGILVRAY - Credit: ALLY McGILVRAY

A major mop-up operation is set to get underway in north Norfolk after flooding wreaked devastation along the coast.

The Coast Road in Salthouse disappeared under water. Picture: ALLY McGILVRAY

The Coast Road in Salthouse disappeared under water. Picture: ALLY McGILVRAY - Credit: ALLY McGILVRAY

Residents in Salthouse and Walcott were forced to flee their homes shortly before the storm surge hit tonight (Friday) amid fears for their safety.

And the coast road, between Blakeney and Sheringham, was turned into a raging river - with the neighbouring Cley bird reserve submerged under water.

However, many were left to wait for daylight to assess the full extent of the damage - including Cromer Pier which was wrecked in the last major storm surge in the area in December 2013.

Salthouse Parish Council chairman Sarah Dawson, who opened an evacuation centre in the village hall, said: 'Flooding is a huge issue for us because of 2013 when many, many homes were destroyed on the coast but they've now been rebuilt. Most of them had their flood defences up tonight so hopefully this time it won't be as bad.'

Around 15 properties were evacuated in Salthouse, while a further 80 properties were evacuated in Walcott, where a rest centre was set up at The Lighthouse Pub.

However, while Walcott was given some advance warning, the decision to evacuate in Salthouse was only announced just over an hour before the sea spilled over into the street.

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Mrs Dawson said: 'We've known there was a flood alert for some time but they only decided to evacuate about half five - so very late.'

Firefighters were called to Salthouse to rescue people stuck in flood water.

In Walcott, 400 homes were believed to be without electricity following a power cut.

Dorothy and Brian Dickenson were among 70 people taking refuge at the pub. The couple had to move out of their home for nine months after it was flooded in the 2013 tidal surge.

Mrs Dickenson said: 'Last time we had to be rescued by a dingy, but this time they warned us early and after what happened before this is a bit unnerving. My husband recently suffered a heart attack and is disabled, but hopefully everything will be alright this time.'

In Blakeney, the high tide spilled over the quayside and onto the street but most residents were prepared.

Tony Faulkner, whose home overlooks the quayside, said: 'We normally do this once or twice a year but we've actually already done it twice now. We're all equipped with flood walls now and they are very effective.'

There were concerns for the safety of residents walking along coastal paths, clifftops and piers, with police officers urging people to stay away.

Police also advised residents not to drive or walk through flooded areas.

The warnings came as police continued to lead a multi-agency response to combat the predicted combination of high tides and extreme weather which may cause disruption in the area.

Councillor Tom FitzPatrick, Leader of North Norfolk District Council, said: 'Staff at North Norfolk District Council have been working alongside community flood wardens, the police, fire and coastguard to help ensure people stay as safe as possible.

'Our emergency contingency team and coastal management teams have been working round the clock and have been out on the ground at Blakeney, Salthouse, Cley, Wells and Walcott working with community flood wardens to help warn and inform people.

'Our teams have gone out to close down the pier and promenade at Cromer, Sheringham Promenade, Mundesley and Overstrand seafront.

'Our property services team has been out to ensure property is as secure as possible to minimise the damage and will be out tomorrow to assess any damage caused.'