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You are in: Suffolk » Don't Miss » 1953 East Coast Floods

Wednesday 29th January, 2003 - 10:00 GMT
Could the floods happen again?
Floods
Floods

Fifty years on from the East Coast Floods what changes have been made to ensure that we are prepared should flooding of this magnitude ever happen again?

SEE ALSO

1953 East Coast Floods

BBC Weather:
East Coast Floods 1953

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FACTS

1953 EAST COAST FLOODS:

307 people drowned

24,000 homes flooded

1,200 breaches along 1,000 miles of coastline

160,000 acres of farmland flooded

46,000 livestock lost

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Could it happen again?
Are people still at risk?
How are we fighting the floods?
Flood warning codes


COULD IT HAPPEN AGAIN?

Beating flooding is a never-ending challenge according to The Environment Agency. The real question is: When will there be another flood? There are four reasons for this:

  1. As strange as it may sound, Britain is tilting. The East Coast is literally sinking into the sea at a rate of 150mm every 100 years.

  2. Climate change may cause sea levels to rise.

  3. There is increased stormy weather predicted.

  4. Powerful wave surges of about one metre are sweeping across the coast three or four times a year.

Paul Woodcock, the Environment Agency's Anglian regional director, said: "Understandably, people want to know if this is likely to happen again.

"It is important to recognise that the weather conditions on the fateful night of Saturday 31 January 1953 were very unusual. While surges sweep the coast three or four times a year, they rarely coincide with high tides and bad weather as they did in 1953.

"People are much better protected today but we should not be complacent. We can manage the risk but we can never eliminate it.


ARE PEOPLE STILL AT RISK?

Today, about 300,000 properties in the Anglian region are located in areas at risk from flooding.

According to the Environment Agency the risk of a disaster on the scale of the 1953 floods has been significantly reduced due to the billions of pounds spent on flood defence and warning systems.

Some important lessons have been learned which should help to prevent another catastrophe:

Improved Organisation:

In 1989 the National Rivers Authority was formed to oversee flood defence in England and Wales.

The Environment Agency, set up in 1996, now takes responsibility for flood defence and flood warning. In 1953 there wasn't a national body in charge of our rivers and coastlines.


Improved Warning Systems:

The Met office have set up the Storm Tide Forecasting Service (STFS) to provide a 24-hour forecast of coastal flooding and wave activity. Therefore we should have more time to prepare for the effects of flooding.


HOW ARE WE FIGHTING THE FLOODS?

  1. The Environment Agency monitors our rivers, seas and weather conditions 24 hours-a-day, 365 days a year.

  2. There are 34,000 km of river and coastal defences in place across England and Wales.

  3. The Environment Agency spends nearly £400 million each year on flood defence. Since 1953 the Agency has invested over £1 billion around the Anglian Region.

  4. Over the next 10 years over £200 million will be invested in the region to provide better flood protection.

  5. The Anglian Region covers 1350 km of coastline from the River Humber to the Thames. Regionally £72 million will be spent in 2003/2004 to help reduce the risk by maintaining existing flood defences, building new flood defences and providing a flood warning service.

  6. The Agency's advance warning system aims to provide people with a minimum of two hours warning of imminent flooding.

  7. Those in high risk areas can sign up for the Environment Agency’s advance warning system (phone the Floodline on 0845 988 1188 or log on to www.environment-agency.gov.uk)


FLOOD WARNING CODES

The Environment Agency provides a flood warning system. This consists of the following codes:

Flood Watch Flood Watch - Flooding possible. Be aware! Be prepared! Watch out!
Flood Warning Flood Warning - Flooding expected affecting homes, businesses and main roads. Act now!
Severe Flood Warning Severe Flood Warning - Severe flooding expected. Imminent danger to life and property. Act now!
All Clear All Clear - An all clear will be issued when flood watches or warnings are no longer in force.

Latest flood warnings can be found on the Environment Agency's website.

 

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