14/01/2017 10:42 GMT

Flooding Relief As East Coast Storm Surge Fails To Wreak Havoc

'I guess it was a lot of panicking.'

Flood-threatened residents have expressed relief on parts of Britain’s east coast as a feared storm surge was not as bad as expected - but Essex is still bracing itself for the high tide.

Thousands were evacuated from their homes as the Environment Agency (EA) issued 17 severe warnings - which warn of danger to life - with those in Norfolk, Suffolk and Essex told they were most at risk.

Residents on the east coast waited for the storm surge to hit during the second high tide, with gale-force winds and higher than usual tides expected to bring waves crashing over coastal defences.

Victoria Jones/PA Wire
Flood-threatened residents in Britain's east coast have expressed relief after a storm surge was not as bad as expected; a coastguard vehicle is pictured above at The Strood causeway in Essex

The risk of flooding in Great Yarmouth was expected to peak at around 9.30pm on Friday - but the worst fears of the people in the area were not realised.

Charles Osborne, 52, from Great Yarmouth, said: “The river did get pretty high but I didn’t think it would ever go over the walls. I guess it was a lot of panicking but you can’t be too careful.”

Jess Hudson, 19, from Gorleston-on-Sea, Norfolk, said: “I didn’t think it would be as bad as before (when floods hit in 2013) but people were worried and they’ll be relieved the worst seems to have passed.

“I was surprised at the number of people who stayed in their homes when they were asked to leave. If it was me, I wouldn’t want to risk that.”

Dan Kitwood via Getty Images
Police officers patrol the streets in Jaywick as residents prepared for a storm surge on Friday

Lynda Freeman, 31, of Norfolk, said: “I’m just glad it’s all over. Seeing the army on the streets and the warnings did get me a bit anxious.”

Dozens flocked to the banks in Great Yarmouth and Gorleston-on-Sea to watch the river Yare and Bute swell as high tide approached at 9.45pm.

The Haven Bridge was one of the focal points for spectators as the pedestrian walkway was filled with people pointing their smartphone cameras towards the river - several feet short of breaching the walls.

In nearby Gorleston, waves licked against the walls splashing those who were too eager to get a look at the fast-flowing Yare.

The emergency services and army were a frequent sight on the streets of the Norfolk town ahead of the predicted storm surge, but were called off as it appeared the area has swerved the worst of the weather.

According to its live incidents web page, Norfolk Fire & Rescue Service attended a few incidents to “assist with flooding”, including rescuing people stuck in flood water, and assisting “with emergency lighting at an evacuation centre” in Walcott.

Jonathan Brady/PA Wire
Gavin Mack (right) from St Osyth, prepares to bed down with his family at the Tendring Educational Centre in Jaywick, Essex after residents were evacuated over flooding fears 

Police said a man was arrested for public order offences after jumping into the river in Great Yarmouth.

Officers were alerted to a man acting dangerously next to the River Yare near Haven Bridge at around 9.10pm. When asked to move away from the water for his own safety, the man jumped in.

Police said a woman police officer pulled the man from the water immediately and he was detained.

Superintendent Dave Buckley said: “Despite numerous warnings from police and our partner agencies to stay away from the water, a small number of people do not seem to be taking this message seriously.”

Evacuations also took place in Jaywick, Mistley and Mersea in Essex, and residents in 1,800 properties in east Suffolk were also told to leave their homes.

High tide in Jaywick, Mistley and West Mersea was expected shortly after midnight.

Rest centres were set up in areas affected by the flooding, but Essex Police said that at around 6pm no one had registered at the Mersea rest centre.

The EA moved more than five miles of temporary barriers and 25 pumps to depots and towns along the east coast.

The Chief Fire Officers Association said it had mobilised 15 fire and rescue services to assist in Lincolnshire, Norfolk, Suffolk and Humberside.

The flooding threat came as Britain is being battered by wintry conditions, with severe Met Office weather warnings for ice in place across the country.