Homeowners pick up the pieces after devastating flash floods
- Credit: Victoria Pertusa
Families who were forced to leave their homes over Christmas have been picking up the pieces after torrential rain wreaked havoc across Norfolk and Waveney.
People across the region, particularly in south Norfolk and the Waveney Valley, were hit by flash floods as heavy rain poured relentlessly.
In some parts of the county, a month's worth of rain fell in just 24 hours from December 23 into Christmas Eve - and there was no let up for many as Christmas Day arrived.
Among the worst-hit towns were Long Stratton and Harleston, while isolated villages bore much of the brunt.
But much of the most severe damage was done in the Bungay area, where dozens of residents were forced to evacuate their homes as their already unsettled Christmas celebrations were shaken up even further.
Earsham and Ditchingham - either side of Bungay - were badly hit, with the River Waveney breaching its banks and flooding fields, roads, back gardens and homes.
Water began coming into John Earl's home on Christmas Eve and continued rising until the early hours of Christmas Day morning.
The 62-year-old, who lives at Ditchingham Dam, had "not seen anything like it" since 1968.
"At 2am on Christmas Day , the police thought the worst of it might have passed, but we were up all night," said Mr Earl. "It obviously had a little bit of surge and then it came through the floors at 4.45am.
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"Since then it has been a mopping-up operation. We've got everything out, all the carpets, and everyone's safe.
"I had the added problem of my wife being quite ill, so we had to get her out quickly.
"I'd say it sums up this year quite well. But all the neighbours have been fantastic - they've mucked in and helped out, so in that sense it has been a pleasure."
A few doors away, Janet Kirkpatrick and her husband became increasingly concerned as water gradually crept up their garden on Christmas Eve afternoon.
Come 9pm, the situation had become so dangerous they were advised to evacuate, and the couple sought refuge at Mrs Kirkpatrick's sister's house, in Norwich.
The traumatic experience capped off a wretched year for the sisters, whose mother died in May at the height of coronavirus lockdown.
As she returned home on Boxing Day to assess the devastation, Mrs Kirkpatrick was in good spirits despite the latest hammer blow.
"We'd got up at 7.30am on Christmas Eve and there was no water in those fields at all," said the 59-year-old.
"We even commented on how lucky we were, but over the next few hours it just kept creeping and creeping towards the house."
Mrs Kirkpatrick intends on staying with her sister until she "feels safe again" in her own home, which may not be for several more days as Storm Bella brings strong winds and further downpours.
She added: "I don't mind living upstairs, but I need to feel that I'm safe and will have hot water and electricity that's not going to go off any minute."
Diana Townsend, who lives nearby at the Waterside Maltings estate, escaped largely unscathed from the first bout of flooding.
But the prospect of another onslaught has struck fear into the 46-year-old and dozens more of her neighbours, prompting a frantic scramble to get hold of sandbags and barricade their homes.
"We have a stream at the bottom of our garden and the water level is already extremely high," said Miss Townsend.
"I think seeing all the fire engines on Christmas Eve really made it hit home. You see floods happening in Yorkshire and further afield, but you never think it's going to be front of you.
"It was really upsetting to see, but we are lucky because we saw what happened and we've had a bit of time to prepare.
"Bungay is a very friendly place and we've had some sandbags donated. We've done all we can."