From the editor’s chair: Tested by nature we stood firmly together and did ourselves proud

Flooding after the tidal surge at Great Yarmouth. Photo: Nigel Pickover Flooding after the tidal surge at Great Yarmouth. Photo: Nigel Pickover

Sunday, December 8, 2013
10:00 AM

What a memorable week it has been at the word, picture, video and TV furnace that is the EDP in 2013.

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While we have been spearheading an exciting and vital information chain in the flood surge crisis, on our websites and in our newspapers, my first salute is to the coastal communities of Norfolk and Suffolk.

As you are reading elsewhere in this edition today, many villages and small communities have been hit hard and much damage has been done.

Battered yet unbowed are these precious East Anglian locations – and everyone will be thankful that, as far as we know, no lives have been lost.

To those who have lost homes, or property, or much-loved personal possessions, I send deep sympathy and very best wishes on behalf of everyone in the great EDP family.

Better days will come after the long haul back to normality.

During the recent dark days of our Norfolk and Suffolk tidal surge crisis, the hairs on the back of my neck tingled on a couple of occasions.

Firstly, alone in the office before dawn yesterday, I thought of the monumental efforts of the great storytellers, our journalists.

The hairs on my neck experienced a pride-driven shiver.

Our EDP institution exists today because of powerful journalism through part of three centuries now – and, I hope, that inspiring work is apparent under my watch.

What pride I have in our news commanders, our writers and photographers, our headline writers and our TV and video specialists.

I know deep within that the founding father of everything the EDP believes in, Jacob Henry Tillett, pictured, would have shared that emotion.

I know, too, how excited he would have been at the multimedia age we are now in – with sophisticated tools at our disposal in the place of quills from the feathers of birds and ink from some dark place.

My next “neck hair” moment came when I left our Rouen Road, Norwich, headquarters late on Thursday to check for myself the deteriorating situation at precious Great Yarmouth, where waters 
were lapping at the top of river defences.

When I arrived and approached the police tape, next to the feared flooding zone, sightseers and TV crews were at one side, emergency teams at the other.

There I met one of the heroes who has sped to Norfolk’s aid from far afield – one Karl Bowden, Huntingdon station commander for Cambridgeshire Fire and Rescue Service.

I said “thank you” to him and his team for coming to help us – and his team showed me the defences placed around the town’s telephone exchange. The very next minute I was with the Hertfordshire Police team – and their Bedfordshire colleagues – who were on hand to help, thanks to the terms of a UK-wide emergency co-operation scheme. I took pictures, said more thanks and stood in awe at the scale of the emergency operation that had been organised.

In 1953, many lives were lost in a similar flooding event when many East Anglian communities were unaware of looming catastrophe.

How good was it this time that I can feel the pride now as I write about the dozens of 999 teams who raced to our aid, trying to beat – with speeding wheels and blue flashing lights – the tide that was battering and belting down the east coast. The police teams were from wider East Anglia – but the fire and rescue cohorts came from farther afield. If I said Shropshire, Somerset, Devon and Cornwall, Oxfordshire and Derbyshire were just some of the brigades involved, you’ll understand the scale of the event and why the government’s Cobra team, including Great Yarmouth MP, Brandon Lewis, were involved.

To finish I’d like to say thanks to a few groups – whilst the danger is ever present in winter and in these troubled weather times, our appreciation should be mentioned.

To Britain’s fire and police teams – come back and see us on sunnier days – you’ll be most welcome.

To Norfolk and Suffolk’s Gold Command teams, including Norfolk County Council, Suffolk County Council, Waveney and Suffolk Coastal councils, Great Yarmouth Borough Council, North and West Norfolk councils – you did us 
proud.

To the Environment Agency – brilliant alerts, great communication, a terrific effort. EDP salutes EA. And to all other members of our 999 teams, including our great ambulance and paramedic crews – you never, ever, let us down, even if your overall service continues to need a massive overhaul and is under constant EDP scrutiny. I believe the government should look at what happened on December 5, 2013 – and capture it for rollout across the UK the next time there’s a crisis.

Nigel Pickover is the editor of The Eastern Daily Press – you can follow his world on Twitter @ nigel_pickover

3 comments

  • This North Sea storm was felt by all that share a coastline in Europe, Danemark Germany, Holland and Belgium. All of Hollands Dyke watchers were out watching for breaches and flooding. My sincere condolences to the family of the Norfolk HGV driver, who was the unfortunate victim of a storm gust that blew his lorry over and on to two other cars. Many onlookers and agencies agree that the short duration of the storm front and its effects has minimised possible, and far greater damage. Should the EDP raise the profile of sea protection, should we have a debate about storm surges in our unprotected estuaries? Why we should take the opportunity and produce tidal energy as part of a wash barrier, potentially safeguarding our Fenland economy, vital for a fifth of our national fresh food supplies? And what of the Orwell, Blackwater and even Thames estuary when the eastern seaboard is sinking, should we buy time as Holland has done? And should we marry sea defences with energy generation, give assurance to the many people who suffered continuous tidal flooding for decades, just here in Brundall, that these storms can be planned for and thjat we can do something about it?

    Report this comment

    ingo wagenknecht

    Sunday, December 8, 2013

  • And the EDP took two full days to report that the only fatality in Britain was a local man. It was reported on Facebook straight away.

    Report this comment

    alecto

    Sunday, December 8, 2013

  • There should be a campaign to get central government money to help the coastal communities of Norfolk to recover from this, rather than relying on charity donations. There should also be some coordinated thinking about sea defences, especially at Happisburgh, where the Lighthouse, church and pub are under long-term threat. The Netherlands seems to have successfully reclaimed land, why doesn't the British government think about at least preserving the land we've got. Money is obviously a key issue and a plethora of different authorities supposedly in charge of a coordinated policy just fiddle while the coast disappears. The environment Authority may be good at communicating warnings etc but it has proved absolutely useless at protecting the village of Hapisburgh.

    Report this comment

    pablo

    Sunday, December 8, 2013

The views expressed in the above comments do not necessarily reflect the views of this site

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