Britain evacuates thousands after storm surge

Britain evacuates thousands after storm surge
Emergency rescue service workers evacuate residents in an inflatable boat in flood water in a residential street in Rhyl, north Wales December 5, 2013.

LONDON - British authorities evacuated thousands of people from coastal towns in Britain after a huge storm lashing northern Europe unleashed the worst tidal surge in 60 years, officials said Friday.

The worst of the flood waters were receding, but with another two high tides expected in eastern England later Friday, the Thames Barrier in London was set to be closed for the second time in two days to protect the capital.

Two people were killed in Britain on Thursday when Atlantic storm Xaver hit with winds of up to 142 miles per hour (228 kilometres per hour), before heading out into the North Sea towards Germany and the Netherlands.

One of the victims, a lorry driver, died when his vehicle toppled onto a number of cars in Scotland, while a man riding a mobility scooter was struck by a falling tree in Nottinghamshire, central England.

Officials said at least 10,000 homes had been evacuated: 9,000 in the eastern county of Norfolk and 1,000 in the southeastern county of Essex.

Britain's Meteorological Office confirmed it was the worst tidal surge since catastrophic floods hit North Sea countries in 1953, killing more than 2,000 people.

But defences along Britain's east coast have been strengthened since then and while some were breached by the latest surge, most of them held.

"The defences seemed to have held up well and seemed to have performed well," Environment Agency spokesman Tim Connell told the BBC.

The pier in the Norfolk seaside town of Cromer was damaged by the high seas.

Police in Great Yarmouth, Norfolk, meanwhile urged "sightseers" to stay away, saying they were placing themselves at "significant risk".

Police in the northeastern county of Northumbria said the floods appeared to be easing Friday, saying that "early indications are that the tidal surges in our area this morning are less than what we saw yesterday."

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