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Rat alert as the clean-up efforts get under way

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Families devastated by the worst tidal surge in 60 years have been warned rats could try to get into their homes as they begin the clear-up.

As many as 1,400 households were flooded after a tidal surge swamped the east coast of England last week.

The risk has now receded with Stockton-on-Tees the only place in the north of England with a low-risk warning still in place.

But last night families affected by the torrent were warned they faced a new threat from contaminated floodwater and vermin streaming into their homes.

Worried council bosses in Suffolk issued an advice checklist to try to stop families, particularly those with young children, falling victim to disease.

They urged parents to prevent youngsters playing in flooded areas or with contaminated toys.

They also called on householders to discard food grown in allotments or gardens and to store rubbish out of the reach of pests.

Meanwhile the Environment Agency has urged anyone who needs advice on the clear-up to call its floodline. Chief Executive Dr Paul Leinster said: “Our thoughts remain with those people who have been affected by flooding.

“People can find advice on how to recover from a flood on our website or by calling Floodline on 0845 988 1188.

“We continue to work with our partners to review the impact of flooding and to ensure that damage to flood walls and banks is repaired as soon as possible.

“Our staff, partners and the emergency services have worked tirelessly to issue warnings and move people to safety. Without their efforts the impact of this storm could have been far worse.

“Over the last three days we issued an unprecedented number of flood warnings. These gave emergency services, homes and businesses vital time to prepare.”

Among the worst affected areas was Boston in Lincolnshire where 300 homes were flooded, while North Yorkshire seaside resorts including Whitby and Scarborough were also affected and the River Tyne burst its banks in Newcastle.

Devastated residents in Hemsby, Norfolk, watched their cliff-top homes disappear into the sea as the tidal surge hit on Thursday night.

Five bungalows fell into the water as the high tide eroded the cliff below.