April 20 2014 Latest news:
Thursday, February 6, 2014
Two months ago today a tidal surge caused distruction along parts of the coast. Reporter Sabah Meddings went back to the worst-hit village to see how the village is recovering.
On this day in December, villagers in Walcott were returning to their homes to discover the devastating effects of the worst sea surge to hit the county in 60 years.
The towering waves came crashing over sea defences, smashing into walls and sweeping away homes and businesses.
Today in Walcott, crumbled walls and derelict houses are a stark reminder of the destruction caused by the high water on December 5.
Many villagers are still living in temporary accommodation, while others have made their homes in caravans parked in gardens — the view of their damaged chalet or bungalow a daily reminder of what they have lost.
Stuart and Janet Richards are no strangers to the devastating effects of a high tide and powerful waves.
In 2007 their home was ruined by floods and they were forced from their bungalow for almost a year while it was repaired.
And after December’s tidal surge the couple have gone through the ordeal again — living in rental accommodation in nearby Bacton.
But Mr and Mrs Richards count themselves lucky they were able to have affordable insurance to cover the cost.
Mr Richards, 62, said: “There are people a lot worse off than us. And having experienced it before we knew what to expect.”
They stayed in a hotel with neighbours in the days after the floods. Mrs Richards said: “It was really good therapy, we could talk about it in the bar every night.”
Mr Richards, who has retired from the prison service, said it will be September before they can move back into their home on Coast Road.
And although businesses like the Kingfisher Cafe have reopened their doors, the conversation topic remains fixed on that devastating few hours.
Cafe owner Graham French, 54, said while some people have almost finished repairs, others are still waiting for their battered belongings to be cleared away.
He said: “There is still quite a lot of frustration about.
“Villagers are angry but they don’t have anyone to be angry with - it’s the personal loss of memorabilia that gets them.”
Pauline Porter, 62, who moved to Walcott 10 years ago with her husband Keith, 57, has been forced to move out of her bungalow and into a static caravan in the garden.
And she said after the floods she is wary of the sea.
“You can’t help feeling anxious,” she added, “you need three things in life — shelter, food and clothing — and people here lost all of them.”
Mrs Porter, a parish councillor who acted as village co-ordinator following the surge, and her husband have no building schedule yet as their home is still being cleared.
Looking back on the days after the surge, she told how one of the most frustrating sights was that of ‘disaster tourists’ heading to the village to catch a glimpse of the destruction.
Mrs Porter said: “It made me angry — they were putting themselves at risk.
“Some people were going into properties that had the walls knocked out which was clearly unsafe and it was someone else’s home.”
But many also offered help in the weeks after.
Mr French, who could not get flood insurance at his home next to the cafe, said: “People were mindful of this and came to help us - sometimes for free.”
Jane Ransom, who has been living in Walcott for 24 years, has formed a support group for people who have suffered damaged to their homes. They help by collecting donations and furniture for those most in need.
The 48-year-old teaching assistant said: “I have become used to seeing the debris but I can’t imagine how or those people affected must feel to see it all still sitting there.
“It needs to be cleaned up soon - the village relies on the holiday trade and if it still looks like this then visitors won’t come.”
Despite the ongoing struggle, thoughts have fallen to Somerset, where many homes are currently under water and people have been forced to leave their homes.
Mrs Porter, who is also Walcott Parish Council chairman, said: “They are far worse off than we are.
“With us the water comes in and goes out but their homes are still sitting in.”
And cafe owner Mr French said he was looking forward to getting back to normal.
He said: “I am hopeful by the time summer comes it will be cleared up and part of our history.
“Walcott is still a nice place — we still like living here and I hope people still keep coming.”
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