A TEENAGER was reported missing in Devon and dozens of people had to be rescued, as the latest Atlantic storm struck, with winds gusting up to 106mph.
Searches were under way last night for Harry Martin, 18, who is thought to have gone out to take photographs. He was last seen walking towards a coastal path near his home at about noon.
Police, the Coastguard, the Royal Navy and Plymouth lifeboat were conducting searches around the coast and inland.
Flood water caused travel chaos in many areas, with delays and disruptions, including on cross-channel ferries.
Weather-watchers who ignored warnings to avoid coastal areas came under fire. People were seen at several seafronts as huge waves battered the coast, despite warnings to stay away after two people died.
One family was branded “irresponsible” after being spotted taking children for a walk on an exposed Cornwall pier as violent waves crashed over their heads and threatened to wash them away. A man was seen holding a young child up over the harbour wall at Mullion Cove Harbour, just before a 20ft wave struck.
Onlooker Phil Rodda, 56, described how the man dropped the child as he was overcome by the torrent – and the family were lucky to escape.
The retired civil servant said: “We went down to see how rough the sea was – but from a safe distance away.
“We could see the young family, a man and a woman with three or four kids in all. The man was lifting the little girl up. Suddenly, this huge wave came crashing over the harbour wall and knocked the dad off his feet.
“He fell back on to the ground, still clutching the girl. They were very close to being swept away.
“The mother then ran over and grabbed the girl before they traipsed off, looking drenched and rather sheepish.
“It was a ludicrous thing to do and incredibly dangerous.”
People in Cumbria were also seen at piers and harbours, despite warnings being issued, and a police spokesman said: “This is very dangerous and people are putting themselves and emergency services at risk.”
Sightseers at Burry Port in south-west Wales had to be ordered away by police.
The town, which sits on a tidal estuary, was lashed by huge waves and winds of more than 70mph during the morning high tide. “People were turning up by the carload at East Beach and Burry Port harbour and walking along the harbour wall,” Carmarthenshire County Council spokesman Ron Cant said.
“What they cannot know is what is in these waves. The sea takes up a lot of rock, rubble and stones and throws them violently about.
“Stones weighing up to one hundredweight were being flung into the car park and people were literally putting their lives at risk by being there.”
The Environment Agency had warned “coastal paths and promenades could be highly dangerous”, while the RNLI urged people to “avoid exposed places where big waves could sweep you off your feet”. A gust of 106mph was recorded at the Needles on the Isle of Wight.
Severe flood warnings, which indicate a risk to life, were issued for England and Wales from early yesterday. Among the areas affected were the south coasts of Devon and Cornwall, Dorset, Gloucestershire and Newport in South Wales
High tides threatened coastal communities further north, such as Liverpool and Belfast.
Around 150 flood warnings were also in force in every region of England and Wales, and in Northern Ireland.
The Thames flood barrier was closed due to a high spring tide and increased flow of water over Teddington weir, and the Woolwich ferry was suspended. Bristol’s Cumberland Basin lock was completely submerged.
In Cornwall, flooding hit areas including Penzance, Newquay, Looe and Polperro, and many roads were closed.
In Devon, towns including Kingsbridge and Salcombe were affected by rising water.
However, RNLI spokesman Tom Mansell said the flooding was not as bad as expected.
He said a man in Cornwall had had a “very lucky escape” when his car was swept away as he wave-watched.
“People think they are in a strong metal box, but moving water on tarmac becomes very buoyant,” he said.
A man in Penzance was evacuated from his home after it was “severely affected” by floods.
The Severn Bore, a tidal wave often welcomed by locals as something of an attraction, left flooding in its wake – it was the highest tidal flooding on the river for more than 14 years.
The village of Minsterworth in Gloucestershire was deluged after the Severn burst its banks.
Aberystwyth, on the west coast of Wales, was also badly hit. Student Tom Rule said: “I woke up this morning and looked out of my window to see the promenade outside destroyed and huge waves crashing on to it.
“All of the paving stones were up, a car had been washed away and huge waves were crashing on to the road.”
The storms have claimed at least two lives. The body of a 27-year-old man from Surrey was found on a beach in Cornwall after he was swept out to sea on New Year’s Eve, and a woman died on Tuesday after being washed away at a Devon beauty spot.