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Cameron views tidal surge damage

David Cameron. Photo: PA Images

David Cameron surveyed the extent of the flood damage as he visited a town hit by last week's tidal surge.

The Prime Minister visited Wells-next-the-Sea in north Norfolk today and met those whose properties were damaged as the tide reached the highest level on record, exceeding that reached in the Great Flood of 1953.

Sea defences in Wells prevented widespread devastation but at least nine homes and dozens of businesses were flooded.

A flood barrier pulled across Wells High Street.

Further along the coast, smaller communities were hit hard with three bungalows in Hemsby falling into the sea and numerous other villages deluged.

Several homes were destroyed by the surge. Credit: ITV News Anglia
Several homes by the sea in Hemsby were destroyed by large waves. Credit: Mike Page

Mr Cameron paid tribute to the emergency services and flood wardens for their response, but said more could be done.

"These were terrible floods and it was a very difficult event but the resilience of people here in Norfolk must be praised.

"The systems worked well, the flood wardens did a brilliant job and the police, fire service, lifeboats and the whole community pulled together.

"This was a bigger flood than 1953 when 24,000 homes flooded - this time only 1,400 homes were flooded.

"But that's no help for the people whose homes were flooded this time."

– David Cameron

He said it was important insurance companies paid out promptly and people had the support they need to restore their homes.

"There's always more to be done and always lessons to be learned," Mr Cameron said.

"Whether that's personal flood defences that householders can put in, new flood defences the Government should be funding or even better working between emergency services and local authorities

"You can always do more but, if there had been no defences, some 800,000 homes could have been flooded and that shows how far we've come."

– David Cameron
North Norfolk MP Norman Lamb. Credit: PA Images

North Norfolk MP Norman Lamb, who has helped launch an appeal to assist those affected with a personal £100 donation, escorted Mr Cameron.

They visited the Standard House Chandlery which lost much of its stock as water levels reached four foot inside the store and the Golden Fleece pub on the quay front.

Steve Brundall, who runs a restaurant above the pub, said: "The water came up to the window sill and has damaged the walls, the floors, everything.

"Before the tidal surge we did everything we could to protect the place - we had to drive 30 miles to find sandbags because we couldn't get hold of any locally.

"We're now on the phone constantly to the insurance company, trying to get a pay-out.

"Hopefully we'll reopen this weekend but it won't be until March that we can have a full re-fit."

Mike Strong, who co-ordinates the flood response locally, said one obstacle in preparing for the flood had been a "cry wolf" mentally as locals had become accustomed to regular flood warnings.

"We were going door to door warning people and we were met almost with contempt and derision," he added.

"There is a tendency towards complacency and, while the flood defences here are very good, people need to be aware that they are only part of the protection.

"The flood has caused a lot of disruption and hardship further along the coast but, if it helps shake that complacency, it could prove a vital wake-up call."

Mr Cameron also visited the town's lifeboat station which was flooded and met RNLI crews.

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