Valentine's Day diners rescued from Milford-on-Sea restaurant after windows shattered by flying rocks (From Bournemouth Echo)
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Valentine's Day ends in drama as diners rescued by army and emergency services in Milford-on-Sea
3:40pm Saturday 15th February 2014 in News
Diners today relived the terrifying moment they had to flee for their safety after waves and rocks shattered the windows of a seaside restaurant during a Valentine's dinner.
Forty-one people at The Marine eatery at Milford-on-Sea, Hants, had to form a human chain as they waded through the flooded restaurant that was deluged by 30ft waves.
They had to dodge out of the way of large pebbles and stones thrown up off the beach by the hurricane-force winds.
Two women customers were carried out while others placed carrier bags over their high-heeled shoes before trudging through the 2ft high water.
The 36 customers and five members of staff were led out of the building by a combination of police officers, firemen and military personnel.
They had to wait for a break in the crashing of the waves before they could run across the car park and into waiting army trucks that evacuated them to a local leisure centre.
The flying stones peppered one of canvass-sided trucks and tore through it like small 'cannonballs.'
As the left the area, many of the diners saw their parked cars being swept down the road by the tidal surge.
At daylight, the scene resembled a war-zone.
Virtually all of the floor-to-ceiling windows at the front of the two-storey restaurant were shattered and large craters had opened up in the tile flooring.
The business opened in 2010 after a two million pounds development and it is thought the cost of last night's damage will run to over 100,000 pounds.
The windows and windscreens of about a dozen cars had been smashed in and some vehicles were piled up against each other from where they were swept along.
Large strips of torn wood and chunks of masonry from a row of demolished beach huts, worth 20,000 pounds each, were strewn across the coast road alongside the restaurant.
Jane Hopkins, 47, was enjoying a Valentine's meal with her partner Greg Pepper in the upstairs restaurant at the time.
She said: "We were in the middle of the restaurant watching wave after wave hit the windows along with shingle.
"It wasn't sea spray, they were full on waves and they must have been 30ft high to be reaching the top of the building.
"Then two of the windows started to crack and that's when the staff evacuated the restaurant and moved us into a back room.
"We were given coffee and chocolates before the fire brigade and Army arrived.
"We then had to go downstairs and wade through the water in the ground floor restaurant.
"I had my high heels on and some women wanted to take theirs off but were advised not to because of the amount of glass on the floor."
Miss Hopkins returned to the area today to inspect her Renault Scenic car which has been written off due to the water damage.
Vicky Tongeman, 45, was sat at a window table with husband Brian.
She said: "It was very dark outside but every few seconds there was a loud whooshing noise from the waves hitting the windows.
"Then we started to hear pebbles hitting the glass and two of the windows cracked and that's when we were all moved back.
"The staff gave us plastic bags to put on our feet and when we went downstairs we had to wade through the water that was up to our shins.
"All the downstairs windows had been shattered and the noise from the sea was incredible."
Dave Kichley, 52, was enjoying a romantic meal with wife Sarah when the windows smashed.
He said: "You could hear wave after wave hitting the window and actually see the panes of glass moving before they were shattered by the stones.
"By that stage everybody had been moved towards the back of the restaurant."
Ryan Smith, 21, was the duty manager at The Marine last night.
He said: "It was horrific, absolutely terrifying.
"The night was all going very well and all of a sudden we heard stones flying at the window and then there was a loud crash from downstairs.
"I went to the top of the stairs and could see water up to knee height gushing into the downstairs area.
"We then heard the windows cracking upstairs and we started moving people away from the windows.
"Then two of the windows went and the water started coming into the restaurant. There was so much glass that it went halfway across the room.
"When we had to evacuate the building we had to form a human chain down the stairs and waded through the water to get to the main door.
"A few people didn't want to leave because they thought they would be safer upstairs.
"A few woman were carried out and we had to face the back wall to shield ourselves from the water and shingle flying in."
Susan Thompson, who owns the restaurant with husband Richard, said they had experienced 90mph winds before without any problems and decided not to cancel the bookings last night when they checked the weather forecast which started the wind speed was expected to be 80mph.
Mr Thompson said: "We didn't realise how ferocious is was going to be. It was quite horrendous and water just poured into the restaurant."