A team of researchers from the University of Lincoln, UK, are working with the residents of Canvey Island to record the unique history of those families affected by the North Sea Flood of 1953.
Postgraduate Forensic Anthropology students from the University's School of Life Sciences will delve into the unique history of the Island by talking to the few remaining survivors and family members that were affected, plus those whose family history relates to the event. The Flood resulted in 58 people losing their lives and the Island population being evacuated.
Councillors, community groups and local residents have been invited to participate in the research project, which will also analyse the recovery methods undertaken to sustain the population.
The ultimate aim is to create a detailed account of residents' stories in order to give an overview of how the tidal surge passed through the Island on 31st January, 1953.
Stephanie Armstrong, who is leading the research team while on site at Canvey Island, said: "We would like to work with local people in order to outline in detail what actually happened to the victims and how the residents coped in the immediate aftermath. If we are able to gain more knowledge of how the flood passed through the Island, we can help to inform any disaster management planning the council has in place should an event such as this happen in the future. For example, we may be able to recommend where disaster response stations are positioned."
The team will also construct maps of where the victims were and highlight specific areas of flood risk, which could then feed into a new pre-flood plan currently being worked on by Essex Emergency Services.
Assistant Divisional Officer Martyn Hare, Essex County Fire and Rescue Service, said: "The information from this research will help us in our future response and preparedness work. This project has identified the areas of Canvey most likely to be hardest hit by flooding and it gives us the intelligence we need to develop strategies to prevent flooding by getting our resources in the right place at the right time and start pumping water into the sea before roads and homes have flooded.
"The data also helps us target advice to families living in high risk areas to make sure that they take the correct precautions and know exactly what to do if there is a flood."
Councillor Ray Howard, from Castle Point Borough Council, said: "This research will help to support and promote the civil protection duty placed on the Council under the Civil Contingencies Act 1994 to increase preparedness and warn and inform residents regarding the measures which exist to deal with any emergency taking place in the Borough and the findings of the research will be made available to the public."
Overseeing the project is Dr Lucy Easthope, senior lecturer at the University of Lincoln and an expert in mass fatality disasters.
Dr Easthope has advised governments, corporations and relief agencies in the aftermath of major incidents, including the 2010 and 2011 Christchurch earthquakes in New Zealand, as well as developing contingency plans, training programmes and exercises with a number of international organisations.
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