Terrified residents were forced to pack up their belongings and possibly abandon their cliffside homes for fear their homes could sink into the sea during an overnight storm surge.
At least five people were told to leave their homes at risk in Hemsby, Norfolk, as 50mph winds and a 12ft high tide threatened to undermine their properties perched on a small sandy cliff.
The coastal town, which is home to around 3,000 people, has suffered from severe coastal erosion in recent years with many properties abandoned as the cliffs continue to slide. In fact, it is the second time that the coast has been threatened in less than two weeks.
Coast guard workers helped residents desperately flee their homes when they were forced to watch patio flagstones in some of their gardens slide into the sea.
Among the evacuees was retired Grenadier Lance Martin, 65, who in 2018 moved his detached £95,000 property 10.5m from the cliff’s edge to prevent it from collapsing into the sea.
Terrified residents were forced to leave their cliffside homes in Hemsby, Norfolk, after a storm surge.
At least five people fled their homes when high tide tore away chunks of the seashore where their homes sit.
Among the houses threatened is that of retired grenadier Lance Martin (pictured), 65, who has so far refused to vacate his cliff-top property.
When he bought the house in 2017, an environmental impact study told him it would be 30-40 years before the cliff edge reached his house, until the storm Beast from the East devoured 30 meters of his backyard in 2018.
The defiant ex-soldier, who up to this point has refused to leave his clifftop home, has gone to live in Lowestoft while he waits out the storm.
Footage from his property shows raging waves churning around his backyard, which is now only a few feet deep. Mr Martin’s path, The Marrams, at the edge of the cliff is now at risk of being eroded by the tide.
Several residents took all their belongings out of their homes on Thursday night and were taken to a town hall, while some are now at risk of permanent relocation.
A disabled man was also among those told to evacuate. Kevin Jordan, 69, he was evacuated at 8:00 pm from his bungalow chalet.
He uses a cane to get around, as he suffers from mobility problems in his feet and spine. He worries that he will have to walk on dirt roads to get back to his house if the road collapses.
Jordan bought his home as a sanctuary for himself 11 years ago after the death of his son and his partner.
Back then, the detached house which sits on the west side of The Marrams road overlooked huge rolling dunes. Now it leads to a sharp drop to the beach.
He is one of two or three residents who live permanently at the end of the road, the rest serving as vacation homes.
The road is owned by a charity but, according to Jordan, the organization has had “no interest” in doing anything about the road’s erosion, despite the fact that each resident pays several hundred pounds a year in maintenance fees.
Coastguards revealed that erosion of the cliff had created a new 10-foot drop into the sea from the beach, meaning the local lifeboat can no longer be launched.
On Friday morning, the Coast Guard deployed around 6:30 a.m. anxiously awaiting the next high tide, which was due at 9 a.m.
Dan Hurd, 41, is the helmsman of Hemsby’s lifeboat who was out last night and this morning monitoring the situation.
Properties in Hemsby have been at great risk in recent years with many properties abandoned as the cliffs continue to slide.
Coast guard workers helped residents desperately flee their homes as they were forced to watch patio flagstones in some of their gardens slide into the sea.
‘It’s a fucking mess down there right now. If you see the sea right now you wouldn’t believe it,’ he said.
“Many people are upset, last night they had to leave their properties and some left their belongings, fully furnished houses, food in the pantry, everything there.
‘One refused to leave, but we managed to persuade them to go to a hotel.
“I think it’s disgusting that the government hasn’t passed measures that could help prevent this.”
Last week, aerial photographer Mike Page, 83, from Norfolk, shared images exclusively with MailOnline showing how much the British coastline, including Hemsby, has eroded over the last half century.
A recent report by climate group One Home estimated that coastal homes in England worth a total of £584 million could be lost to falling cliffs by 2100.
Hurd fears that this road will have to be closed permanently if the next tide eats more sand under the track. This would mean that at least seven residents at the end of that road would have to be permanently relocated.
Their houses would be condemned according to Hurd because the highway was their last point of access and the emergency services could no longer reach them.
According to the Coast Guard, a new 10-foot drop was formed due to last night’s high tide, meaning the lifeboat can no longer be safely launched into the sea.
A telegraph pole, which had been disconnected two weeks ago when the last storm hit, also fell into the sea last night.
Hurd added that if the weather continues to erode this part of the coast, the lifeboat and crew will need to permanently relocate to shore.
Hemsby residents have been scrambling to put up a rock berm in an attempt to help stop further erosion.
Planning permission was due to arrive a year ago, but the government’s Marine Management Organization has yet to approve the plans.
One of them is Ian Brennan, president of Save Hemsby Coastline. “We are pleased with the Hemsby Parish Council’s response to opening the town hall to the evacuees last night; they are now environmental refugees,” he said.
Hemsby is largely built on sand which provides little protection from rough seas, as shown here in January 2007.
Sixteen years later, on March 1, 2023, the remaining grass was gone and some of the houses had sand right up to the front door.
A recent report by climate group One Home estimated that £584m worth of coastal homes could fall into the sea by 2100 as a result of coastal erosion.
‘It’s good that they have a plan and can help people at risk, but the best plan is not to be at risk in the first place and prevent houses from falling off the edge of the cliff.
‘I am sorely let down by Great Yarmouth Council. There is a lot of talk, but there is still no planning permission for the rocky berm.
Brennan said “a landslide is inevitable” after extreme high tides hit Thursday night.
Great Yarmouth Council said building control experts were considering whether and how quickly properties should be demolished, with surveys to take place over the next two days.
A spokesman also said granite rock could be placed in front of the dunes as a “short-term interim option” to provide urgent support for the “main access road for 62 properties”.