The fierce tidal surge that hit the Norfolk coastline on 5 December 2013 was predicted to be the most serious stormy seas in 60 years. On schedule, the powerful waves breached sea defences in Hunstanton and delivered chaos and damage to “Hunstanton Sea Life Sanctuary” and the small businesses under the pier (“Castaway Fish & Chips” and “Surface”) all of which are closed until further notice. (Sadly I later heard that looters thought such a night was a great opportunity to help themselves from the afflicted Surf shop under the pier which had been battered by the storm.) Other parts of Hunstanton seafront were also affected including the fairground and Oasis Leisure Resort. The Fun Castle and cafe were closed pending clean up and repair operations. Searles Leisure Resort had limited damage but had a foot of water in the plaza area. The situation would have been much worse here but for the works done to raise the power boat ramp and the addition of rock armour in the vicinity, See previous article about sea defences.
The impact of the fierce waves on Hunstanton Sea Life Sanctuary left the entire building surrounded by up to 3 feet of sea water as it continued on its way round the Norfolk coastline. Inside water levels were more than a foot deep and the building’s electricity was gone. Many expressed concern for the welfare of both staff and animals, and later, their admiration for the way the Sea Life team successfully managed to ensure the safe evacuation of almost all the fish and animals.
Social media was manic with people anxious to hear their property, friends and loved ones were all ok throughout the night. Thanks to modern technology reassurances could be given quickly.
Once things were more settled Sea Life staff retreated to a nearby house and established a plan to ensure the safety of the animals within the Sanctuary. Emergency services were quickly on the scene and the water pumps were put to work. Everyone worked through the night and by morning the water had been drained.
By early Friday morning, the huge evacuation programme was launched to relocate the thousands of fish. The lack of power meant vital life support systems were unusable so staff had to move quickly to protect vulnerable marine life from risks such as contamination. Specially adapted transport vehicles containing holding tanks and marine experts from The Sea Life Headquarters in Dorset visited Hunstanton to provide emergency back-up and transport fish to quarantine facilities in Weymouth, Dorset. Relocation arrangements also had to be made for the otters and penguins at least until power is restored and repairs carried out.
By Saturday, thanks to unrelenting dedication by the staff of Hunstanton Sea Life Sanctuary and volunteers, sharks, a turtle, tropical fish and six penguins were successfully evacuated from the Sea Life Sanctuary and now settled in their new homes. The Sea Life team also provided assisted in the rescue of seal pups from other flooded areas in Norfolk.
Sanctuary General Manager, Nigel Croasdale, could not praise the efforts of the fire service and his own staff enough in their dedication to ensuring the safety of all the animals throughout proceedings.
Hunstanton Golf club in Old Hunstanton also felt the effects of the tidal surge as the water caused damage to parts of the golf course. Bob Carrick of Hunstanton Golf Club said: “The sea roared down into Holme and now the 10th hole is under water and needs pumping out.” Mr Carrick advised that expected that it could take a week for the water to be cleared and restore the 10th hole back into use. He went on to say that: “as of today there were 15 holes playable on the golf course so golfers were still welcome to play.”. If you wish to enquire about updates on the golf course then please call Mr Carrick on 01485 532811.
The road to recovery for the Sea Life Sanctuary and the other Hunstanton businesses affected will take many months. However, this process will be made all the smoother with the support and help from those around them which has already been forthcoming.
Please check websites and social media to keep up to date on the re-opening of affected businesses. Click for updates re Hunstanton Sea Life Sanctuary.