Police on highest level of alert

More than 1,000 Yarmouth families living in homes close to the river from South Denes to Caister Road on the east bank and in Southtown, Cobholm and Gorleston's riverside on the west bank were being advised to evacuate themselves if they had family and friends to stay with.

More than 1,000 Yarmouth families living in homes close to the river from South Denes to Caister Road on the east bank and in Southtown, Cobholm and Gorleston's riverside on the west bank were being advised to evacuate themselves if they had family and friends to stay with.

The region's emergency services were last night preparing to mount their biggest operation for decades as severe floods were predicted for Yarmouth and Lowestoft this morning.

Following all-day gold level meetings - the highest emergency level - at Norfolk Police's Wymondham headquarters, plans were put in place to evacuate all patients from Yarmouth's Northgate Hospital, as well as 200 pensioners from care homes in the town and people with special needs identified at risk by social services.

By 7pm last night, agency spokesman Richard Woollard said the whole Norfolk, Suffolk and Essex coast was at risk from the highest tidal surge down the North Sea since the great floods of 1953. Wide areas of the Broads were also at risk of serious flooding.

He said: “It is very similar to 1953. It was a 3.2m surge then and now we are looking at a 2.9m surge. The weather forecast and tides are also similar, although of course we have moved on with better defences.”

David Kemp, flood incident management team leader of the Environment Agency, added: “We are very concerned about this otherwise we would not be putting so many people to such inconvenience if we were not taking the risk of this extremely seriously.

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“Certainly these are the largest figures I have ever seen.

“We have an enormous reservoir in the North Sea. If it's up to a high level, it just keeps pouring in.”

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