Storm menace to seafront landmark

Halstead Gazette: The seafront at Aberystwyth, Ceredigion, has been battered by the elements. The seafront at Aberystwyth, Ceredigion, has been battered by the elements.

Violent storms and gale force winds have reduced large parts of the historic seafront at Aberystwyth to rubble and threaten to destroy a popular landmark.

After a weekend of storm torment the resort's classic Victorian promenade, and the Welsh coast, were rocked again today by waves and torrents of driving rain.

Large amounts of sea shingle littered the popular public promenade and bins, railings and bits of masonry are scattered across the usually pristine seafront.

Worst hit has been its Victorian public shelter, a listed building, which partially slid down on to the beach as parts of the promenade fell into the sea.

Students in halls of residence along the seafront had already been evacuated in preparation for more morning devastation at high tide.

A handful of businesses and hotels were also preparing to evacuate staff having already been forced out late on Friday evening and over the weekend.

Richard Griffiths, who runs the seafront's Richmond Hotel, said: "The seafront looks like a bomb has hit it today. It's devastated.

"We are right on the promenade and the storm is only just starting to abate now. We have been very, very fortunate with little damage to the building in our case.

"But there are neighbouring businesses who are a lot worse off. Some are flooded and have bad water damage."

He said the public shelter has been ruined by the weather and would need to be completely rebuilt.

"It's almost completely on the beach. We have been watching it fall into the sea all day. It's still happening while I speak.

"The shelter is a Victorian listed building where people go in bad weather to eat their ice creams and watch the waves. It's a great shame."

Student Millie Farmer, 19, said seafront properties had been evacuated and the promenade blocked off by emergency services.

Miss Farmer, a second year geography student at Aberystwyth University, said the tide was as high as she had seen it in the 16 months she had lived in the town.

"I've got friends who live on the seafront and they've been evacuated this morning. They say the police are going from door to door," said Miss Farmer, who comes from Shepreth, Cambridgeshire.

"I think they're worried about flooding. The tide is high at 11am. At the moment it's about a metre away from the promenade. I've never seen it that high before. Normally it's 10 to 15 metres away.

"You can't get on to the seafront. It's blocked off about 100 yards from the promenade. There's a fire engine parked across the road. But I could see the sea from the barrier. It's very rough.

"The weather wasn't too bad earlier on - there was a bit of rain - but it's absolutely pouring down now."

She estimated that hundreds of thousands of pounds worth of damage had been done.

"They're starting to clear up. It's a complete mess," said Miss Farmer.

"You can't see the road. The promenade slabs have been scattered everywhere. It's an extension of the beach.

"It's a real shame. The front was damaged by storms a few weeks ago. They'd only just repaired it. Now it's been ruined again. There must be hundreds of thousands of pounds worth of damage."

Miss Farmer said seafront properties had been evacuated on Friday and rescue centres set up. She said waves had been "spectacular".

"The weather today is nothing like as bad as it was yesterday," she said. "But it was still pretty scary this morning. The waves hitting the front were twice as high as me - and I'm not far off six feet."

Earlier an Aberystwyth student spoke of the devastation she witnessed as the storm hit in the morning.

Millie Farmer, 19, said seafront properties in Aberystwyth, mid Wales, were evacuated as the promenade was blocked off by emergency services.

Miss Farmer, a second year geography student at Aberystwyth University, said the tide was as high as she had seen it in the 16 months she had lived in the town.

"I've got friends who live on the seafront and they've been evacuated this morning. They say the police are going from door to door," said Miss Farmer, who comes from Shepreth, Cambridgeshire.

"I think they're worried about flooding. The tide is high at 11am. At the moment it's about a metre away from the promenade. I've never seen it that high before. Normally it's 10 to 15 metres away.

"You can't get on to the seafront. It's blocked off about 100 yards from the promenade. There's a fire engine parked across the road. But I could see the sea from the barrier. It's very rough.

"The weather wasn't too bad earlier on - there was a bit of rain - but it's absolutely pouring down now."

Hotelier Mr Griffiths, speaking as the storm began to abate today, said he was banking on an upturn in business later in the month.

He said there was bound to be a lot of interest from people wanting to see the storm-ravaged seafront in the aftermath of the severe weather.

"There is a positive for every negative. We have had a lot of calls from customers asking how we are and wanting to know what is happening.

"People are fascinated by the storms and the starlings you can see from the hotel and the waves breaking on the beach.

"For many people it is mesmerising to watch from the warmth and comfort of a hotel. People don't get that sort of view from their suburban homes."

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