On this day January 31st

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North Sea floods

The North Sea flood of 1953 was one of the most devastating natural disasters ever recorded in the United Kingdom. Over 1,600 km of coastline was damaged, and sea walls were breached, inundating 1,000 km². Flooding forced 30,000 people to be evacuated from their homes, and 24,000 properties were seriously damaged.

Probably the most devastating storm to affect Scotland over the last 500 years, the surge crossed between the Orkney and Shetland Isles. The storm generated coastal and inland hazards, including flooding, erosion, destruction of coastal defences, and widespread wind damage. The fishing village of Crovie (then in Banffshire, now Aberdeenshire), built on a narrow strip of land along the Moray Firth coast, was abandoned by many of its inhabitants as entire structures were swept into the sea.

The surge raced down the East Coast into the southern North Sea, where it was exaggerated by the shallower waters. In Lincolnshire, flooding occurred from Mablethorpe to Skegness, reaching as far as 3 kilometres (2 miles) inland.

In individual incidents, 41 died at Felixstowe in Suffolk when wooden prefabricated homes in the West End area of the town were flooded. 37 died when the seafront village of Jaywick near Clacton was flooded. Reis Leming, a US airman, was awarded the George Medal for his bravery in rescuing 27 people in the South Beach area of Hunstanton.

In East London, water poured from the Royal Docks into Silvertown, where it drained into the sewers but flooded back out again in Canning Town and Tidal Basin. Almost 200 people were made temporarily homeless and took refuge at Canning Town Public Hall.

The total death toll on land in the UK is estimated at 307. The total death toll at sea for the UK, including the MV Princess Victoria, is estimated at 224. Total damages were estimated to be £50 million (£1,280 million today).

Realising that such infrequent events could recur, the Netherlands particularly, and the United Kingdom carried out major studies on strengthening of coastal defences. The UK constructed storm surge barriers on the River Thames below London and on the River Hull where it meets the Humber estuary.

Today's question — which island in the Thames Estuary was flooded?

Click here for the answer

In Essex, Canvey Island was inundated, with the loss of 58 lives.

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