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Clean-up operation starts after 'perfect storm'

The clean-up has started in coastal communities battered by weekend storms.

COUNTING THE COST: Bill Roberts of North Berwick Harbour Trust surveys the damage to the harbour wall.
COUNTING THE COST: Bill Roberts of North Berwick Harbour Trust surveys the damage to the harbour wall.

Gale-force winds and high tides brought flooding and forced dozens of people to be evacuated from their homes in the east of the country.

Ports and flood defences were damaged in what environment minister Paul Wheelhouse described as a "perfect storm" of south-easterly gales, low pressure and high tides.

Councils have said it could take a number of days before the extent of the damage can be assessed and costs calculated.

On Friday, a crewman aboard North Sea stand-by vessel the Vos Sailor died after the boat suffered serious storm damage, and 11 others had to be winched to safety.

The extreme weather prompted a meeting of the Scottish Government Resilience Room in Edinburgh, where local authorities updated ministers on the storm impact.

About 60 people were evacuated from properties in Stonehaven and Peterhead on Saturday, with residents of sheltered housing complexes forced to leave.

Temporary accommodation has been provided to all evacuees who remain unable to return to their homes, Aberdeenshire Council said. A 20-metre section of the harbour wall was destroyed in Boddam, Aberdeenshire, while Peterhead harbour and a number of commercial properties along the waterfront were badly damaged.

Elsewhere, a section of the harbour wall in Lossiemouth collapsed, while a shipping container broke loose and caused damage at North Berwick, East Lothian.

Ministers visited the affected areas yesterday. Richard Lochhead, Rural Affairs Secretary, was in Lossiemouth, Peterhead and Fraserburgh.

He said: "The weather that battered east Scotland in recent days was unprecedented and widely regarded as the worst the local area had experienced in many decades.

"I saw first-hand the damage caused – including smashed seawalls, flattened factories and a wrecked play park – illustrating the magnitude of the storm."

Transport minister Keith Brown travelled to North Berwick to see the extent of the damage.

He said: "I was hugely impressed but not in the least bit surprised by the community spirit on show in North Berwick.

"While some people are understandably still coming to terms with the impact of the storms, they have rallied together and are demonstrating a determination to get back on their feet as quickly as possible.

"There has clearly been a considerable amount of damage caused by the huge waves and exceptional conditions."

Mr Brown added: "Having spoken to those who were caught up in the storm, they believe the conditions were some of the worst in living memory, damaging sea walls that have stood for over 150 years."

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