Felixstowe: Flood barriers put to test on coasts and rivers

FLOODGATES along Felixstowe’s seafront were slammed shut today as part of a national operation to test the country’s emergency response to a 1953-style storm surge.

Engineers were working all along the low-lying seafront and talking to residents about how they can prepare for flooding as part of Exercise Watermark.

At Manor End, they carried out a simulation of the 1953 floods – in which 41 people died at Felixstowe – and showed how they would react if one of the steel barriers failed, building a sandbag wall and a temporary steel pallet barrier.

One in six properties in Britain is at risk of flooding – either from the sea, rivers or reservoirs, ground water and surface water.

Nick Hesp, operations delivery manager for Norfolk and Suffolk for the Environment Agency said a surge as high as 1953 was a once-in-200-years event, but nature was unpredictable and no-one could ever rule out a higher surge if the elements conspired together.

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“What we do have to bear in mind though is the significant investment that has been made since 1953 to make sure we are better prepared to protect both life and property,” he said.

“Our flood warning systems have been improved greatly, as well as building and maintaining defences, and we work hard to ensure people are as prepared as possible to respond.

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“With the current systems we now have, we would have four to five days’ notice of a surge event which would help us give out the warning to people.”

The exercise was taking place al along the east coast and also in the estuaries and at places like Ipswich – where the regional incident control is based – and Woodbridge.

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