London flood surge 'worst in 60 years'

| 9th December 2013
The flood that would have hit London last week - without the Thames Barrier. Photo: the Environment Agency.
The flood that would have hit London last week - without the Thames Barrier. Photo: the Environment Agency.
Revealed: the devastating flood London nearly suffered last week.
A similar surge in 1953 caused widespread devastation, killing 307 people and leaving 40,000 homeless.

The closure of the Thames and Hull Barriers last week saved 800,000 homes and businesses from flooding in what was the highest sea surge since 1953.

However thousands of homes along the UK's east coast were flooded following a combination of high tides and powerful onshore gales. A similar surge in 1953 caused widespread devastation, killing 307 people and leaving 40,000 homeless.

The Environment Agency's chief executive, Dr Paul Leinster, said: "We estimate that at least 800,000 homes and businesses have been protected by flood schemes in the past 24 hours.

"Flood risk management assets, including the Thames and Hull Barriers, have protected thousands of homes and businesses from sea levels higher in some places than those that occurred during the devastating floods of 1953."

The 500-metre wide Thames Barrier was closed on Thursday and Friday last week. Communities along the UK's eastern seaboard are carrying out a huge clean-up operation after thousands of residents were evacuated.

England's east coast is at increasing risk of severe floods as sea levels rise due to the expansion of water in warming oceans. The Thames Barrier is expected to need replacement with a higher barrier by 2070.

More from this author

Donate

The Ecologist has a formidable reputation built on fifty years of investigative journalism and compelling commentary from writers across the world. Now, as we face the compound crises of climate breakdown, biodiversity collapse and social injustice, the need for rigorous, trusted and ethical journalism has never been greater. This is the moment to consolidate, connect and rise to meet the challenges of our changing world. The Ecologist is owned and published by the Resurgence Trust. Support The Resurgence Trust from as little as £1. Thank you. Donate now.