Coast under flood siege

A woman and her dog were rescued from floods as heavy seas and high tides swept across Wales. Photo / AP
A woman and her dog were rescued from floods as heavy seas and high tides swept across Wales. Photo / AP

Hundreds of people in Britain mopped up flooded homes yesterday after a powerful storm that scoured northern Europe with hurricane-force gusts kicked up the biggest tidal surge in 60 years, swamping stretches of shoreline.

Rising seas prompted evacuations along the eastern English coast, with 1400 properties flooded and at least a half-dozen communities at great risk of exceptionally high tides and large waves.

In London, the Thames Barrier - a series of huge metal plates that can be raised across the river - closed for a second time in as many days to protect the city from the surge.

Environment Secretary Owen Paterson said there would be "exceptionally high tides" this weekend, though they were not expected to reach Friday's levels, when water swamped seaside promenades and flooded homes.

In the town of Hemsby in eastern England, several houses fell into the sea as waves eroded cliffs.

Britain's Environment Agency said sea levels in some areas exceeded those in a 1953 flood in which hundreds died. But flood defences and evacuation warnings meant that only two people were killed in storm-related accidents.

Accidents linked to the storm that roared across Europe have killed at least eight people, from Britain to Sweden, Denmark and Poland.

Traffic ground to a halt on icy highways and train service was cancelled in large parts of Sweden. Tens of thousands of people lost electricity. Strong winds knocked down the city of Vaxjo's Christmas tree.

Scores of flights were cancelled at airports in Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Germany and Poland. More than 1000 people spent the night at Copenhagen Airport where 200 flights were cancelled Thursday and about 70 on Friday.

Strong winds threatened a collection of Viking ships recovered from the bottom of a Danish fjord in the 1960s and put on exhibition.

Museum workers boarded up the expansive windows of the Viking Ship Museum in Roskilde, west of Copenhagen, amid fears water from the fjord would rise and shatter the glass.

Police in Denmark ordered the evacuation of people in the towns of Frederikssund and Frederiksvaerk, northeast of Copenhagen, because of imminent flooding. The towns lie on the Roskilde fjord, which has seen water levels rise noticeably.

Hamburg Airport, where almost all flights were cancelled on Friday, was open for business but cautioned that there would be cancellations because of wind and snow.

Trains northward from Hamburg to Denmark and some other destinations were cancelled.

Tidal floods that hit Hamburg in the early morning were akin to those that drenched the city in 1962, causing the worst flooding in living memory. But higher and better coastal defences along the North Sea these days have meant the impact of this week's storm on the city has been negligible, with no reports of major damage or loss of life.

Meanwhile, wind farms in Germany reaped benefits from the storm. The country's vast network of on- and offshore wind turbines produced 25,205.8 MW of electricity, the equivalent of 25 nuclear plants and almost 35 per cent of the country's total energy output in one hour.

- AP

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