The Environment Agency says the combination of high tides, gale-force winds and a tidal surge means there’s a severe risk of flooding and danger to life

Britain saw the biggest tidal surge in 60 years yesterday as winds of up to 140mph battered the country’s coastline.

More than 40 flood alerts were issued across England and Wales and thousands of families were evacuated from coastal towns ahead of Thursday night’s high tide.

The storm, combined with a tidal surge, created huge waves on Britain’s East coast.

However, Environment Secretary Owen Paterson has warned the situation is not over and asked the public to follow advice from authorities.

“Over 800,000 properties were protected by flood defences and I would really pay tribute to all of those who have been working through the night,” he said.

Some flood defences were breached during last night’s storm but the agency said that repair work was underway.

A second tidal surge, expected to be 1m lower than yesterday’s, has passed Scotland and the north of England and should reach London at 3pm.

Five beach chalets in Norfolk collapsed as a result of the storm and a lifeboat station has been washed into the sea.

Magic Seaweed forecaster Ben Freeston told the Daily Mail yesterday: “This combined storm creates a region of strong winds stretching all the way from the coast of Holland to deep inside the Arctic circle.

“It’s the strength and distance of this fetch that is forecast to create exceptionally large waves.

“The latest forecasts are for waves exceeding 40ft in the centre of the storm and waves of 30ft plus hitting the Western coast of Norway. These exceed any in our 15 years of historic records for the region.”

Respite centres have been set up in high schools for those who are forced to leave their homes and the elderly are being encouraged to contact their local council for help.

Coastguard watch officer spokesman Barry Woodward told This is Kent how they expected high winds throughout yesterday, with some areas seeing upto gale force nine gusts.

100,000 homes in Scotland were without power as a result of the storm and the Environment Agency closed the Thames Barrier last night in order to protect London from flooding.

Weather conditions across the UK are expected to improve by the weekend.

See a video of the large waves below:

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Image credit: Emma Bailey