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1953: Violent storms claim hundreds of lives
Hundreds of people living on the east coast of Britain have died in some of the worst storms ever recorded.

Gale force northerly winds lashed the coastline and broke through flood defences from Yorkshire down to Kent throughout the night.

Swelling tides and high winds mixed to form a fatal combination which claimed dozens of lives and flooded thousands of homes on low-lying land all along the east coast.

Many people were forced to spend the night on their rooftops waiting to be rescued by over-stretched emergency services.

'Exceptionally strong winds'

The storm began on the west coast of Ireland yesterday morning, passed over Orkney and then funnelled down the North Sea, driving a deadly mountain of water before it.

The Princess Victoria ferry, travelling from Scotland to Ireland, was forced to abandon ship in the Irish Sea after it was caught in the heavy storms. The death toll reached 130.

Warnings of "rather high tides" issued by the Dutch authorities did not reach Britain and it is known many people in both Holland and Belgium also lost their lives.

The eye of the storm hit eastern Scotland at approximately midday yesterday as Dunstable Met Office warned of "exceptionally strong winds".

The first fatalities on land were reported at approximately 1700 hrs yesterday after 20ft (6m) waves crashed through flood defences in Lincolnshire. More than 40 people are feared drowned.

Throughout the night the high winds travelled down the east coast ripping through sea walls and claiming dozens of lives.

Counties worst affected were Yorkshire, Lincolnshire, Norfolk, Suffolk, Essex and Kent.

In Canvey Island, Essex, the entire 13,000-strong population was moved to safety as the bad weather took hold. Essex police said they had recovered 30 bodies during the night.

Eye-witnesses up and down the country said water was gushing through streets and thousands of homes were flooded.

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Huge waves lash the east coast of Britain
Sea defences could not cope with the force of the waves

In Context
Immediately following the floods urgent repairs were carried out on the sea walls along the coastline to prepare for the high spring tides two weeks later.

Official figures compiled after the disaster revealed 307 British people lost their lives and 24,000 homes were flooded leaving more than 30,000 people homeless.

It was also revealed 50,000 animals were killed.

In the Netherlands more than 1,800 died.

Millions of pounds were spent on flood defences all along the east coast.

Although it was calculated that the 1953 storms were a freak of nature unlikely to happen more than once in 250 years, scientists believe factors such as global warming are now increasing the chances of a recurrence.

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