Pictures and videos from Hemsby, Norfolk, in the United Kingdom show multiple houses along the coast on the brink of falling over a cliff edge on to the beach below. The coastline was severely eroded by recent storms dubbed the “Beast from the East,” though the area has suffered quick-paced erosion for years.
Some houses or parts of them have already crashed onto the beach while other seem just about to collapse.
Great Yarmouth Borough Council is to arrange for a demolition contractor to remove the houses that were most affected.
These pictures were taken by Mike Page, 78, who has been photographing the UK’s eroding coastline for almost 50 years.
“It’s a tragedy for the people who lived in these houses—I don’t think the council will help them at all,” he said.
“When I first started taking pictures, there was another entire row of houses between the ones that you can see and the beach itself. What you can see is the result of gradual erosion—these cliffs aren’t protected, it’s a shame that these people are going to lose their homes,” he said.
Maurice Broom, 74, bought his home for £40,000 two years ago after his wife’s death. Now he’s seen it partially collapse on to the beach as 30 feet of his garden disappeared in just five hours.
“I was 90 metres from the sea two years ago; now I’m a metre and a half away. I’m going to need a miracle,” he said. “I’ve got 20 minutes to gather my belongings and my five pets—one of them is blind, so this is the last thing I need.”
Eight of the 13 bungalows were permanent homes and the borough council has been organising emergency accommodation for the residents.
“Demolition of any properties will take place as carefully as possible, with the intention of trying to keep as much debris on top of the cliffs as feasible, so that it can be safely removed and disposed of,” said Carl Smith, deputy leader of Great Yarmouth Borough Council.
“Local residents are reminded that the properties to the east side and beach beneath the Marrams remain a dangerous site, and whilst the weather has now improved, we ask them to stay away from this area,” he said.
Hemsby is one of the most important village resorts in the borough of Great Yarmouth said Barry Coleman, chairman of the council’s economic development committee.
He said the tourism business will open as usual for the Easter holidays, despite some safety limitations.
“Whilst the beach will be unsafe at high tide, at low tide, there is sufficient space for day trippers and tourists to use the beach safely,” he said.
In 2013, seven homes in Hemsby were either washed away or badly damaged when the biggest tidal surge in 60 years hit the Norfolk coast.
A petition to the government requesting sea defences has so far gathered more than 5,000 signatures.
But a permanent sea defence scheme would only protect a small number of homes and would be too costly, according to Charles Beardall, eastern region area manager for the Environment Agency.
“There are no easy solutions,” he said.
The Department for Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs is investing over £150 million by 2021 on coastal erosion projects across the country.
“But it is important that local authorities lead on management of coastal erosion risk, taking the decisions that are right for their communities,” a spokeswoman for the department said.