It was the worst natural disaster to hit the North Sea region in more than a millennium.

A deadly combination of a severe low pressure weather system driving southwards and spring tides proved too much for coastal defences in Scotland, England, Belgium and, especially, the Netherlands.

As the sea rose to more than 5 metres above the normal mean sea level on the night of 1st January and the morning of 2nd February, water swept through towns and villages.

In just a few hours more than 2,000 lives had been lost, the vast majority in the Netherlands. More than 1 million people were left homeless and countless farm animals drowned.

A massive relief programme ensued with former wartime allies pitching in to help those affected.

At a time when all countries were trying to recover from the ravages of the Second World War, the flood prompted investment in major flood protection systems.

In the Netherlands, the Delta Works, only completed in 1998, protected the rivers Rhine, Meuse and Scheldt.

In the UK, investment was made in sea defences and the Thames Barrier opened in 1984 to ensure London remained immune from any future storm surge.

Source: Al Jazeera