The North Sea flood of 1953 (4/5)

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The North Sea flood caused widespread property damage and around 1400 fatalities in Britain, the Netherlands and Belgium. It was one of the worst recorded peacetime disasters of the 20th century, with an exceptionally high death toll. Precipitated by a major cyclone originating from the European mainland, the sheer scale and impact of the flooding was completely unprecedented for its time, taking the United Kingdom – quite literally – by storm. The flood devastated the shoddy, poorly maintained sea defences of the southern coast, causing large-scale flooding which breached the sea walls of over 1,600 kilometers of coastline. The waters washed over the seaward face of the country, reaching roughly 4 miles inland and to a depth of 1.8 meters. In response, the British government ordered the evacuation of tens of thousands of people around the coast. However, despite this attempt at managing the destruction caused by the great flooding, over 24,000 properties were damaged, 40,000 livestock was killed and over 300 people died in the counties of Lincolnshire, Norfolk, Suffolk and Essex: a totally unmitigated disaster. In the aftermath, a military operation was immediately mobilised by the government in order to scour the devastated coastal areas for survivors, as well as to repair and reconstruct the sea defences that had been utterly demolished by the waves. At the peak of this military exercise, around 30,000 emergency workers were operating: making it the largest military operation in peacetime during the 20th century. New systems were established in order to combat the potential threat of future storms, such as a flood warning system and more structurally effective coastal defences.

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