Thousands of fish are being evacuated from a sea life centre as staff fear they could become victims of the severe flooding.

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A major operation was under way at Hunstanton Sea Life Sanctuary in Norfolk after power to vital life support systems was lost in the storms.

Staff worked through the night after the sea breached defences and flooded the building to a depth of more than a foot. Fire officers were pumping water out this morning.

Special transport vehicles with their own life support were sent from Sea Life’s Dorset headquarters to provide emergency back-up, and the operation to remove the fish and take them to quarantine facilities in Weymouth, Dorset, has now begun.

The sanctuary building has suffered serious damage but the full extent is as yet unknown, a spokesman said.

General manager Nigel Croasdale said: “My displays team and three other staff worked right through the night and we have all been very anxious about the welfare of our resident creatures.

“I cannot praise them highly enough, and so far their efforts have paid off with not a single fish or other resident lost.”

He added that with the prospect that electricity might not be restored to the building for days, all the residents would be moved to alternative facilities as quickly as possible.

Marine experts from Weymouth were supervising the transfer which focused on the fish first.

These include a variety of tropical sharks and a green sea turtle.

The sanctuary’s resident otters and penguins are also likely to be relocated until power is restored and necessary repairs carried out.

It will be closed to visitors until further notice.

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