'It was like a bomb had gone off' - West Bay residents tell of their dramatic night

Bridport and Lyme Regis News: SHOCKED: From left, Bill Vickers, Chas Clarke and Sue Marks in front of the damaged homes in West Bay. There is a car buried under the roofing felt. Picture: Anne Bell SHOCKED: From left, Bill Vickers, Chas Clarke and Sue Marks in front of the damaged homes in West Bay. There is a car buried under the roofing felt. Picture: Anne Bell

STUNNED West Bay residents are counting the cost of a terrifying night of storms.

A number of households were evacuated as conditions became too dangerous to remain in their homes near the seafront.

Tons of roofing material were ripped away from apartments at Heron Court as the 70 mph storm force winds reached their height on Friday night.

One woman’s car was buried by the heavy black felt, which smashed into houses behind causing serious damage.

But this morning, Saturday, as people came back to their homes, many said they were thankful that no-one was hurt.

And there was praise for the emergency services and military who led the evacuation in the worst weather conditions to hit the bay in decades.

Chas Clarke, who was sitting in his rented apartment in Heron Court as the storm reached its height said it was as though “a bomb had gone off”.

“I knew it was bad but then there was an almighty bang.

“The roofs just came off all at once with such force that it bent the balcony railings and smashed into the houses behind.

“We were given the chance to leave and those what wanted to went up to the Crown Inn to start with.

“Then during the night, the army escorted those that wanted to, back to their homes.

“Some people went back and The George Inn put up anybody else for the rest of the night.”

Mr Clarke said he has just bought another apartment in the complex to renovate to live in.

“I haven’t had the chance to look at it yet, “ he said. “I am hoping it escaped the worst of it.

“But I really want to thank all the emergency services who looked after us.”

Bill Vickers, whose Edwardian home behind the flats was one of two to take the brunt of the damage was this morning contacting his insurance company.

His roof and dormer window was smashed by the roofing as it hit the building and then caused more damage as it slid down to the ground.

“It was very, very frightening, “ he said.

“There was a huge bang as the roofing all blew off at once. We looked out of the window, saw what had happened and decided to stay put.

“The glass from the upper window went flying across the room and smashed in to the far wall.”

Next door neighbour Sue Marks had no idea what was happening as she was making her way back from Birmingham after a flight to Exeter had been diverted.

Her home suffered serious damage to the roof and part of the front was crushed by the roofing.

“I got a call from someone who was out with the coastguard who told me what had happened,” she said. “But at least nobody was hurt.”

As high water passed at 7am this morning, winds were still strong but the prospect of flooding at West Bay receded.

West Bay Harbourmaster James Radcliffe said he had been up all night, trying to keep people safe, as the high tide whipped up by the winds overtopped the harbour wall for a time.

“Now I am going to see what the position is today, “ he added.

“During the storm all we could do was think about safety.”

The Esplanade was still closed this morning as waves continued to batter the promenade. The Environment Agency said it was monitoring the situation until all threat of flooding had passed.

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