Thousands of fish evacuated from Norfolk aquarium


A major operation to rescue more than 3,000 fish at Hunstanton Sea Life Sanctuary got underway on Friday morning after power to vital life support systems was lost during severe flooding in Norfolk.

Staff worked through the night after the sea breached defences and flooded the building to a depth of more than a foot throughout, and fire officers were still pumping water out on Friday morning.

Special transport vehicles with their own life support were sent from Sea Life's Dorset headquarters to provide emergency back-up, and begin the operation to remove the fish.

The majority were safely removed on Friday. Sharks were caught in their tank with two divers using nets to steer them towards other staff holding landing nets before being rushed out to a waiting van with aerated tanks.

Some of the evacuees have been settled at Great Yarmouth Sea Life Centre while others were take to quarantine facilities in Weymouth, Dorset. The remaining fish and other animals were expected to be evacuated on Saturday.

The Sanctuary building has suffered serious damage but the full extent is as yet unknown. With a very real prospect that electricity might not be restored to the building for days, all the residents had needed to be moved to alternative facilities as quickly as possible.

Sanctuary General Manager Nigel Croasdale praised the efforts of the fire service and his own staff.

"My displays team and three other staff worked right through the night and we have all been very anxious about the welfare of our resident creatures," he said.

Sea Life reinforcements to help exhausted Sanctuary staff, arrived from as far afield as Blackpool and Alton Towers.

"In spite of our best efforts we were unable to save around a dozen fish," said Sea Life's head marine biologist Rob Hicks.

"They were the older and weaker individuals, including three mackerel and three Pacu," he added.

"We regret every loss of course, but to lose so few in such circumstances as we have faced in the last 48 hours, is testament to the Herculean efforts of everybody involved.

"We'd publicly like to thank the Fire Brigade and the local community that have offered help and refreshments over the last few days."

The Sanctuary is also home to penguins, otters and seals, which are also likely to be relocated until power is restored and necessary repairs undertaken.

The Sanctuary will be closed to visitors until further notice. A full estimate of the extent of the damage is to be carried out over the next few days.

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