Colchester: Rescue workers prepare for flooding disaster on Essex coast

EMERGENCY services have staged a live exercise to prepare for a major flooding disaster which is predicted to affect the Essex coastline.

A mass evacuation involving a search and rescue helicopter, lifeboats and hundreds of emergency workers was staged at Ardleigh Reservoir in Clover Way yesterday.

The event, which included about 120 students from Colchester Institute who played the role of evacuees, was part of a national operation to test flood resilience called Exercise Watermark.

Colchester fire station commander Lee Lucas said: “This is a hugely important exercise because flooding on the Essex coast is almost certainly something that we will have to deal with more often in the future.

“We are simulating a worst-case scenario tidal surge where a village has been flooded and 200 people need to be rescued.”

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Divisional Officer Danny Fearn, of Essex County Fire and Rescue Service, said: “The live exercise is a real bonus for Essex and allows us to simulate and test for a mass evacuation, critical infrastructure protection and technical rescue.

“RAF Search and Rescue Helicopters, the Police Marine unit, local and national Urban Search and Rescue and the Coastguard are working alongside the fire service in a realistic flood environment.

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“The aim was to develop on the already good multi-agency relationships, with a view of making our operational response the best possible, should a major flood event ever occur in Essex.”

Robin Goodlad, flood response manager for the RNLI, said: “Exercise Watermark is giving all participating emergency responders a large-scale opportunity to work together and practice essential skills during realistic flooding scenarios.

“The RNLI Flood Rescue Team regularly takes part in training exercises, and the specialist knowledge and world-class skills developed through this helps to ensure they’re ready to rescue people and save lives during flooding incidents.”

Nationwide the exercise took place between March 6 and March 11 and involved more than 3,500 emergency service workers at 62 different events.

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