accessibility & help

Storm surge leads to mass evacuations in the UK

6 December 2013

The British Red Cross has been working round the clock to support communities caught up in violent storms and severe flooding.

A tidal surge, arguably the worst one for 60 years, battered flood defences along the east of Britain yesterday (5 December) and caused widespread flooding.

Several areas received severe warnings – indicating ‘danger to life’ – which meant hundreds of people had to decamp to official shelters for the night.

Distressed residents

One of the worst-hit towns was Great Yarmouth in Norfolk, where the Red Cross helped set up and run seven rest centres for evacuees.

Unfortunately, the extreme conditions meant several care homes and hospices also had to be evacuated, but our support in emergencies volunteers were on hand to provide transport and comfort for distressed residents.

In Lincolnshire, plans were made to evacuate 18,000 properties and even the local Red Cross centre ended up two-feet-deep in water. As the water took hold, 36 volunteers and staff set up three rest centres to help hundreds of residents – plus two dogs and a cat.

Hundreds helped

At Rhyl in North Wales, where floodwater submerged entire streets in a matter of minutes, more than 400 people had to take refuge at a rest centre. A second rest centre was also set up in nearby Holywell.

A busy team of eight volunteers brought in supplies of sleeping bags, and went on patrol through accessible streets in an 4x4 vehicle to pick up vulnerable residents. They then worked through the night to ensure all the evacuees stayed safe and warm.

Nine volunteers also ran a rest centre down the road in Wrexham, where 500 local people had sought shelter for the night.

‘Elderly and vulnerable’

In the Essex town of Jaywick, hundreds of homes were evacuated ahead of the storm surge, and the Red Cross helped run two busy rest centres jointly equipped to hold up to 700 people.

Brian Wingate, emergency response manager, said: “Leaving your home can be incredibly stressful, especially in a situation like this when you don’t know what you may be going back to. It can be particularly distressing for the elderly and vulnerable.

“Our volunteers will be on hand as long as the rest centre remains open – providing hot drinks, meals, comfort and reassurance, as well as practical assistance such as dealing with insurance companies.”

Power cuts

The Red Cross has also been providing support at rest centres in Suffolk and Kent. In Scotland, volunteers are supporting residents affected by power cuts.

Simon Lewis, head of emergency planning and response, said: “Thousands of people have been thrown chaos following these awful storms – but helping people in these situations is exactly what our volunteers and staff are trained to do.

“People know they can depend on the Red Cross, and we’ll be there to help out until everyone is safely back in their own homes.”

You can find more information on weather warnings at the Met Office website.

Help us be prepared in future when the next major crisis hits – make a donation to our Disaster Fund.

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