07/01/2014 07:07 GMT | Updated 23/01/2014 10:53 GMT

Flood Alerts High Across UK As Huge Waves Sweep Away Iconic Coastline (PICTURES, VIDEO)

Huge waves have destroyed famous parts of the British coast as the country remains on alert for yet more flooding.

Massive sea surges along the coast prompted the Environment Agency to sound its flood siren in Dorset last night - warning of extreme danger to people and property.

SEE ALSO: Spectacular pictures of waves pounding Britain's coastline

The alarm was raised after the sea breached Chesil Beach in Portland around 10pm and spray crashed over flood defences, the Weymouth and Portland Coastguard said.

The arch at Porthcothan Bay, Cornwall, has been destroyed in the storms

Residents, who had been on high alert for hours, were told by Dorset Police to move to an upstairs room facing away from the sea and it is believed some homes were evacuated.


The coastguard reported "horrendous" sea conditions and road closures.

Three severe flood warnings - the highest level of warning - have been issued by the Environment Agency covering Chiswell, nearby Preston Beach and the Lower Stour in Dorset.

More than 120 flood warnings urging people to be prepared for flooding remain in place across the country, including in Dorset, Oxfordshire, south Wiltshire, Hampshire and along the river Thames, while more than 200 low-level alerts have been issued.

The Met Office said that heavy showers, some of them combined with hail and thunder, will continue to affect parts of southern and south-eastern England today and tomorrow.

The rain is falling on already saturated ground after a succession of storms putting added pressure on already swollen rivers, while coastal areas also battle high tides and strong winds.

Flooding in the Somerset Levels has left villages cut off, roads and buildings have been damaged, and waves of up to 27ft have been recorded at Land's End, the most southern tip of the UK.

In Aberystwyth, Ceredigion, seafront properties along the promenade were again evacuated to a rest centre at a local school.

Meanwhile, searches are continuing in south Devon for missing 18-year-old university student Harry Martin, who was last seen leaving his home to take photographs of the weather - with more than 100 people volunteering to look for him.

Devon and Cornwall Police said a 20-mile stretch of coastline - 10 miles either side of the 18-year-old's home at Newton Ferrers - has been extensively searched as well as inland areas with the help of a range of groups and emergency services.

Officials around the country have pleaded with people to keep away as dozens put their lives at risk by going to coastal areas to watch as the storm brought waves of up to 40ft high crashing on to land.

Environment Secretary Owen Paterson said the Government was working closely with local councils, the insurance industry and others, to ensure that people could quickly get the help they need.

Some areas of the country were now focused on recovery after storms and flooding over the Christmas and New Year period, while others remained at significant risk of floods, he told the Commons.

People have been warned to keep away from cliffs in Hastings, East Sussex, after excessive rainfall, strong winds and high tides lead to a massive rock fall.

The cliff face at Rock a Nore, which forms part of the Hastings Country Park and Nature Reserve, is susceptible to landslides but the fall on January 3 means the area is dangerous in the current weather conditions, Hastings Borough Council said.

Councillor Emily Westley said: "We already advise the public not to enter the area with warning and information signs and a fixed barrier to restrict access, but must reiterate the current dangers.

"Visual inspections are carried out daily of cliffs as part of the beach inspector's checks and this includes ensuring all signage and barriers are in place. In addition, we also visually inspect and photograph this area of cliff as part of our quarterly inspection of coast defence assets."

In Wales, 140 properties were flooded and there has also been flooding in Northern Ireland and Scotland.

More than 220,000 properties were protected over the Christmas period and another 800,000 were protected during the coastal flooding in early December, Mr Paterson told the Commons.

The Met Office has issued a yellow warning - the lowest of its three levels - for "heavy showers, some of them combined with hail and thunder" until tomorrow morning across the South East, South West and East of England. Forecasters are predicting rainfall of between 0.6in (15mm) and 1in (25mm) but are warning of as much as 1.6in (40mm) in some areas.

Three severe flood warnings in Dorset remain in force today - for Preston Beach in Weymouth, Chiswell on Portland and the Lower Stour at Iford Bridge Home Park in Ilford, Bournemouth.

There are also 106 flood warnings and 202 flood alerts in place, the Environment Agency said.

Dorset Police urged residents in Chiswell to be prepared for flooding and to listen out for the warning siren.

"The siren will be sounded should the sea breach Chiswell beach - as it did last night," a force spokeswoman said.

Portland Beach Road from Weymouth to Portland remains open but will close should the conditions make it unsafe and Preston Beach Road in Weymouth remains closed.

"This is a multi-agency operation and follows monitoring of sea levels, tides and waves over the last 24-hour period, the weather forecast indicating further severe weather together with predicted high tides."

At Palmer's Brewery in nearby Bridport, the Old Brewery building was evacuated when scaffolding was struck by lightning for the second time in 12 months.

"There was a huge bang and all our alarms went off," a brewery spokesman said.

"We evacuated the building and everyone trooped outside into the pouring rain. Fortunately there was no damage and we were able to return swiftly to brewing today's batch of Copper Ale. All back to usual now and the sun has come out."

Other parts of the UK continued to suffer from gale-force winds, heavy rain overnight and strong waves.

The Thames Barrier in London will close for the 11th successive tide today. According to the EA it has only closed operationally 135 times since being built in the 1980s.

In Cornwall, waves at Portreath washed away a 100-year-old stone hut on the breakwater and at Porthcothan Bay, between Newquay and Padstow, a huge rock has completely collapsed under the sheer force of huge waves.

In Wales, the coast was once again battered by strong winds and high tides but forecasters say the worst of the storms is over for now.

All buildings along Aberystwyth promenade were evacuated last night as it was hit by an "exceptional" wave swell.

About 150 students in seafront flats were moved out to temporary accommodation at Aberystwyth University and will not return until safety checks are completed.

But strong winds and rain should ease as the weather improves this week.

Natural Resources Wales said one flood warning for the lower Dee Valley and eight flood alerts remain in place.

Across the rail network, there was continuing disruption to services due to the weather.

Rail services between Lincoln Central and Peterborough have been affected because of emergency engineering work taking place to prevent a landslip.

There were also delays on First Great Western services because of signalling problems between Truro and Falmouth Docks following a lighting strike at the docks.

Flooding between Radley and Oxford was causing delays to trains between Didcot Parkway and Oxford, which was disrupting CrossCountry and First Great Western services.

Several services across the Arriva Train Wales network were continuing to be disrupted due to the damage caused by the recent high winds and flooding.