Tidal surge sparks flood warning

Hilary Benn warned of severe flooding from a tidal surge

Environment Secretary Hilary Benn has strengthened warnings of severe flooding over the next 48 hours from a tidal surge expected to hit the coast of England.

The Environment Agency warned of a “major” tidal surge – rising from a combination of gale force winds and a high tide – to hit the east coast of England. Severe flood warnings are in place along much of the Norfolk, Suffolk and Kent coasts and across the Anglian region.

The Dartford Creek and Thames barriers were closed to defend against the surge, the agency said.

In a brief statement to the Commons, Mr Benn warned of potentially serious flooding over the next 48 hours.

Police are on standby in the areas most likely to be affected to co-ordinate the emergency response – including evacuation if necessary, he said.

Mr Benn told MPs: “A tidal surge of up to three metres is making its way down the North Sea which could coincide with peak high tides. There is a risk of flood defences being over-topped on the coast and in tidal rivers, especially in East Anglia, particularly the Norfolk Broads and the coast south of Great Yarmouth including Lowestoft, and areas south of this as far as the coast of Kent.”

An Environment Agency spokesman said the surge had been caused by gale force winds in Scotland making their way down the coast of England combined with a high tide.

There are eight severe flood warnings, 10 flood warnings and 24 flood watches nationally, covering North Yorkshire, Lincolnshire, Norfolk, Suffolk, Essex and the north Kent coast. The severe warnings are in place from Great Yarmouth down to the village of Shingle Street, and on parts of the River Bure and River Yare. There are also severe flood warning covering Tidal River Waveney from Ellingham to Breydon Water and Tidal Yare from Thorpe St Andrew to Breydon Water in Norfolk.

The Environment Agency later extended its warning of possible flooding to people living along the length of the north-eastern, eastern and south coast of England.