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Pictures: Van drivers risk lives watching stormy seas in Ilfracombe

PUBLISHED: 11:49 03 January 2014 | UPDATED: 12:01 03 January 2014

Van drivers are pictured risking their lives watching stormy seas behind the Landmark Theatre in Ilfracombe. Picture by Guy Harrop

Van drivers are pictured risking their lives watching stormy seas behind the Landmark Theatre in Ilfracombe. Picture by Guy Harrop

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Pictures show moment waves engulfed storm chasers behind Landmark Theatre.

Van drivers are pictured risking their lives watching stormy seas behind the Landmark Theatre in Ilfracombe. Picture by Guy HarropVan drivers are pictured risking their lives watching stormy seas behind the Landmark Theatre in Ilfracombe. Picture by Guy Harrop

THESE dramatic pictures show the moment van drivers risked their lives watching stormy seas in Ilfracombe.

The sequence of photographs taken by Guy Harrop shows huge waves crashing over the sea wall behind the Landmark Theatre in Ilfrcaombe – completely engulfing the vehicle.

The Environment Agency has warned people to ‘stay away’ from promenades due to an increased risk of being swept out to sea.

A ‘severe’ warning has been issued for North Devon coastal areas, meaning danger to life. It is the first issued in the region since 2008.

Van drivers are pictured risking their lives watching stormy seas behind the Landmark Theatre in Ilfracombe. Picture by Guy HarropVan drivers are pictured risking their lives watching stormy seas behind the Landmark Theatre in Ilfracombe. Picture by Guy Harrop

Severe warnings are in along the coast at Ilfracombe, Westward Ho!, Combe Martin and Lynmouth

Similar warnings are also in place along the River Taw from Bishops Tawton to Barnstaple and the River Torridge from Weare Giffard to Bideford, as well as other tidal locations in the Taw Torridge Estuary.

Pete Fox, head of strategy at the Environment Agency, said: “We are expecting flooding along the west and south coasts of England and Wales, due to a combination of strong winds, large waves and high tides, from the early hours of Friday and into the weekend.’

“Coastal paths and promenades could be highly dangerous as there is an increased risk of being swept out to sea. People are warned to stay away from the shoreline.

“The Environment Agency is monitoring the situation closely, working alongside partners including the Met Office and local authorities.

“Environment Agency teams are out on the ground making sure that flood defences are in good working order, monitoring sea levels and preparing to issue flood alerts and warnings.”

A spokesperson said: “Our teams continue to work around the clock to check flood defences and close tidal gates.

Ilfracombe town and district Councillor Paul Crabb said at first glance the damage in the town caused by this morning’s tidal flooding did not appear too bad.

“The vast majority of people were quite well prepared,” he said.

“The district council mechanical sweepers have been out since 5am making sure everything is alright. I think a fair bit of detritus had been washed over.

“It is a bit like being King Canute, there’s a limit to what you can do. We filled up spare sandbags last night and empty ones are available from the offices at the Ilfracombe Centre – but if you think you need them, please make sure you fill them before the tide comes back in again.”

Motorists are advised to check the latest flood updates ahead of making journeys and avoid driving through dangerous floodwater.

A spokesman for the Maritime and Coastguard Agency urged people near the coast to take extra care and not take silly risks:

“In some parts of the country, conditions on the sea and along the coast are likely to be extremely treacherous,” they said.

“HM Coastguard’s advice is simple; don’t take risks. But if you do get into difficulty, or spot someone who might be in trouble, call 999 and ask for the Coastguard.”

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