Homes have been washed into the sea in the most serious tidal surge to hit Britain for more than 60 years.
The houses in Hemsby, Norfolk, were ripped from their precarious cliff top position, as the sea rose to levels even higher than those which caused the devastating floods of 1953.
Sea defences are estimated to have protected more than 800,000 homes but some barriers were breached as the tidal surge combined with high tides and strong winds.
Coastal communities along Britain's east coast were warned of "exceptionally high tides" to come, as the surge swept south towards the Kent coast.
The Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) said two women, two young babies in pushchairs and a dog had been rescued after being hit by a large wave at Louisa Bay in Broadstairs, Kent.
The Environment Agency said further high tides on Friday and Saturday could cause more flooding in areas already inundated with water.
But the number of flood warnings and alerts in place has been reduced with fewer than 70 now in place, including severe flood warnings, which are issued only when flooding poses a "significant threat to life".
Speaking after a meeting of the Government's emergency Cobra committee, Environment Secretary Owen Paterson said: "This is not over.
"I would urge everyone to pay very close attention to advice from the Environment Agency, and also to follow instructions from the emergency services."
Steven Connolly and his wife managed to salvage some of their possessions as their two-bedroom bungalow in Hemsby crashed into the sea.
"We were in the pub when we heard the cliff was going so rushed to get what we could out," he said.
"People we've never even met were helping out, it was amazing.
"Suddenly we heard someone shout 'it's going, it's going' and we watched our kitchen get ripped apart. The whole house collapsed before our eyes."
Further north in Boston, Lincolnshire, residents told Sky's Gerard Tubb they had seen water "cascading" down the street as sea defences gave way.
Sam Seaton said she was "devastated" to find her home had been so badly damaged she will be unable to spend Christmas there this year.
"I lifted my new sofas up off the floor before I left but they are still wet at the bottom, so the water must have come up to a foot or two high," she said.
Thousands of homes in coastal areas were evacuated after officials warned that lives could be at risk.
Hundreds of people were forced to spend the night camped out in emergency rest centres.
In Suffolk, residents who evacuated flood risk areas on Thursday night are being advised to return home.
Authorities in the county said the next high tide is predicted to be substantially lower than the previous two tides, with no risk of flooding.
Sky's Becky Johnson, in Rhyl, north Wales, said: "Lots of elderly people had to be rescued by lifeboats and they were really quite distressed by what was happening.
"Many residents thought their homes were protected by the sea defences and simply weren't expecting to be flooded."
The North Sea surge followed an Atlantic storm which brought severe gales of up to 80mph across Scotland and northern parts of England.
Some mountainous regions in Aberdeenshire and Inverness-shire reported speeds of around 140mph.
One man died after he was struck by a falling tree in a park in Retford in Nottinghamshire, while a lorry driver was killed when his HGV toppled onto a number of cars in West Lothian.
The adverse weather also caused chaos on the transport network, with rail services for Scotland and parts of the North of England suspended and number of flights disrupted.
:: Watch the latest live coverage from around the country on Sky 501, Virgin Media 602, Freesat 202, Freeview 82, Skynews.com and Sky News for iPad.