TV show brings memories flooding back

HARROWING memories of the tragic floods of 50 years ago will be reawakened tomorrow in a TV programme which examines the storm which struck the east coast.

HARROWING memories of the tragic floods of 50 years ago will be reawakened tomorrow in a TV programme which examines the storm which struck the east coast.

Timewatch: The Greatest Storm – which is being screened on BBC2 at 9pm – will look back at the events of 1953 when a North Sea surge swept through Suffolk's coastal towns, leaving a trail of death and destruction.

Among the communities to suffer was Felixstowe, where 40 people – 13 of them children – died, many drowning in prefab houses which quickly filled with water before their occupants could escape.

It was four days before the water – which broke through the river walls and swept across Trimley marshes behind the homes – receded.


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Around 800 acres, one-fifth of the total area of the resort, was affected by floodwater and 700 houses were damaged. In Langer Road the water was around six feet six inches deep.

The documentary will examines the events of that fateful day of January 31, telling stories of heroism and suffering, and asks why the disaster has become one of the most dramatic forgotten events in British history.

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Among those featured are relatives of those who perished, and survivors, who poignantly remember loved ones and describe their own lucky escapes.

Doris and Bill Watkins, who lived in Felixstowe, with their children, Alison, three, and Christopher, two, will tell their story.

When woken by water rising alarmingly inside their home, the family scrambled onto the roof. Luckily, they were rescued, but relief turned to grief when Alison subsequently died of hypothermia.

Still mourning, Doris says: "My mother and mother-in-law said, 'You've buried her, now you've got to forget her'."

Timewatch will use state-of-the-art Met Office technology and weather experts to plot the great storm of '53 and track its path, piecing together for the first time the full story of this horrific natural disaster.

Archive footage will be used, and some of the most dramatic events of the night are reconstructed, as a fishing trawler disappears with all hands, a passenger ferry sinks with the loss of 133 people, and homes and families are torn apart.

The freak storm saw winds gusting at 125mph in the Atlantic clash with a low pressure system just off the east coast of England, creating a vacuum on the sea surface which raised the water level significantly.

Driven by the hurricane, a huge sea surge formed, forcing 15 billion cubic feet of Atlantic water down the narrow gap between Britain and Holland.

One after another, coastal communities were ripped apart; alarmingly crude communications meant that those in the path of the storm had no warning of what was heading their way.

Casualties in the UK and Netherlands were horrific; over 2,000 people died, with thousands more made homeless.

WEBLINK: www.bbc.co.uk/history

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