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The bay is usually a safe haven, now waves crash over homes

THE weather vane crowning our flagpole points resolutely westward.

Winds forecast to reach 100mph intensify and anxious eyes scope it, perched as it is in our clifftop garden in Kingsand, Cornwall.

It's reassuring to see it hold to that quarter. Should it veer south east, as last week, then the village faces more devastation and possible collapse of its signature 100-year-old clock tower with its feet in the sea. Weekly coffee mornings there raise tens of thousands annually for charity.

Tearful villagers watched aghast, TV crews with ghoulish anticipation, as waves gouged out huge sandstone blocks and the balcony subsided. Props may save the tower, provided the off-shore westerly prevails.

The sea has breached defences and invaded homes. The authorities evacuated every occupied sea-front property as relays of villagers and firemen ferried possessions inland. The twin villages of Kingsand and Cawsand became a photo op for David Cameron in a hard hat.

The bay is usually an idyllic safe haven. Nelson's fleet anchored here, rather than proceed up Plymouth Sound. Cawsand boasted an inn where he "passed romantic interludes with Lady Hamilton".

Now, at high tide, waves break over four-storey sea-front houses, cascading down to flood back doors. Spray, thick like smoke on the driving wind, flew over our roof, more than 130 feet above the sea, and 150 from the breaking waves.

Brian Williams, a sea-front resident, was on the second floor of his home when he saw a wave: "six feet above my head, coming at me". He stepped aside as the window - frame, glass and all - exploded into the room.

At high tide next day, a wave tore his front door from hinges, bolts, and locks simultaneously, hurling it up his hallway, where it tore a large radiator off the wall.

He was floored, immersed, and as the wave sucked him towards the gap where the door had been, his daughter grabbed him. "Clare saved my life," he said.

Mr Williams, 86, has helped raise millions for the RNLI and has lived and worked on the sea all his life. "But that's the first time I have feared it."

His home is awash and he has evacuated but, undaunted, tells me he's the only man in the village who was in the sea twice in 24 hours in February.

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Weather

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