Summer opening for flood-stricken Hunstanton Sea Life Sanctuary

Staff at the Hunstanton Sealife Sanctuary move a shark.
Staff at the Hunstanton Sealife Sanctuary move a shark.
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Hunstanton’s Sea Life Sanctuary is hoped to be open in the busy summer season as builders will soon start to repair the devastation left by the tidal surge.

Staff say there is light at the end of the tunnel after more than two months of clearing and cleaning the Southern Promenade building following the flood in December.

Fish and animals had to be evacuated in the days after December 6 when flood waters swept through the building leaving a trial of devastation.

The seal hospital was destroyed and a number of the sanctuary’s 30 tanks or aquarium’s need to be replaced or repaired.

But as the final phase of gutting the building is underway, centre manager Nigel Croasdale is hopeful that rebuilding work will start soon.

He said: “It is a monster of a project. We have had to decide what can be salvaged, what can be repaired and what needs re-building.

“It has been soul destroying but there is light at the end of the tunnel and that is what we have to focus on.

“At the moment we are hopeful that we will reopen in time for the main summer season. It is impossible to be more specific than that.”

Contractors Kettle and Talbot have now been appointed by the Sea Life Sanctuary owners, Merlin Entertainments, and are due to start work on the site within the next few weeks.

Although the main building is structurally sound but the fixtures and fittings were badly hit.

The centre’s retail and catering areas were badly affected.

Luckily the main shark tank was not affected but the centre’s ray tank, which was empty at the time, was damaged at it was moved by the sea water.

Extensive repairs are also required to the otter and penguin enclosures and the seal hospital needs to be replaced.

Mr Croasdale said: “We have been gutting various parts of the building and stripping out all those areas which have been damaged with a view to rebuild.

“It has been a massive job. It must be bad enough when you see the damage to people’s homes by the flood on television but when it is an attraction you have so many different areas to clear.”

More than 20 fish are known to have died after power to vital life support systems was lost during the storm.

But more than 3,000 fish, seals, penguins and other sea creatures have now been moved into temporary homes across the country, including Scarborough, London and Yarmouth.

Some of the Hunstanton centre’s staff are working at the Sea Life Sanctuary in Yarmouth to care for the extra animals.