Near miss at Walcott prompts call for return of flood sirens

Fresh calls have been made for the return of recently-removed warning sirens after coastal communities spent a nervous evening hoping high tides would not overwhelm them.

Coastal roads at Walcott and Great Yarmouth were flooded on Sunday, while people were on tenterhooks at other seaside pinch-points, including Salthouse and Cley.

At The Lighthouse Inn at Walcott, 16 people spent the evening drinking tea by the fire after being evacuated from their homes in the village by volunteer flood wardens.

By 10pm, the waters were beginning to recede - leaving behind a host of angry people, who said the Environment Agency's automated flood alert system had been 'ineffective'.

But an EA spokesman said the system had worked, and that some people had not received messages because it was a 'flood alert', not a more serious 'flood warning'.

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The EDP and North Norfolk News websites received a number of comments, including from 'Pretty Polly', one of those who was moved to the Lighthouse Inn.

She said: 'The same situation arose as in 2007 and no one had a warning phone call from the Environment Agency. Most of us were unaware of the situation until contacted by our community volunteer flood wardens.'

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Maurice Gray, who lives in Walcott and does publicity for the Walcott Emergency Volunteers Association, said: 'The feeling in the village is one of anger. The new system is not working very well. It turns out few people received phone call alerts.

'Had it not been for the independent flood wardens, people would've been stuck in their houses, terrified.'

He said it added to the campaign for the return of flood sirens, which had recently been dismantled.

North Norfolk MP Norman Lamb said: 'Again this reinforces the case for not removing the flood sirens. It was a mistake to do that.

'The concerns over failures of communication and people saying they didn't the automated alert proves it's not an infallible system.

'We need a range of strings to our bow in tackling this threat to our coastal communities.'

The Environment Agency had issued flood warnings at coastal locations at the west, north and the east of the county as well as at the River Yare from Thorpe St Andrew to Breydon Water and the River Waveney from Ellingham to Breydon Water.

An EA spokesman said a flood alert was sent out, meaning there was a risk of flooding to low-lying land and roads - which was what occurred.

She said the alert did not need to be upgraded to a flood warning, which was issued when properties were at risk.

She added that people who signed up to the system could 'opt in' to receive flood alerts, rather than just flood warnings, and said 27 of the 49 at-risk properties in Walcott had been informed of the alert.

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