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Army rescues Valentine's Day diners after storm smashes restaurant windows

The storm has created monster waves, seen here in Sennen Cove, Cornwall

Couples enjoying a Valentine’s Day meal at a beachfront restaurant had to be rescued by the army after windows shattered and the sea flooded in during last night's storm.

Terrified diners fled to the first floor of The Marine in Milford on Sea, Hampshire, when hurricane-force winds smashed shingle through the windows and waves surged in.

James McCrossan, a chef at the restaurant, said: “The wind was just smashing against the windows. It almost looked like the windows were bending.

"The outside of the windows started smashing. There was glass everywhere, it wasn't safe for anyone.

“It's like I never seen before and, touch wood, I hope never to see it again."

The coastguard, fire service and the army were called to help the 32 stranded diners at 10pm.

More debris from the nearby beach shattered the first floor windows before people were eventually taken to safety by six-wheel-drive Army vehicles.

Even they withstood damage from the ferocious storm, which hurled rocks and other debris in gusts of over 80mph.

Stephen Caunter, the restaurant's general manager, told Sky News that most of the vehicles in the car park were washed away, under water or written off, and feared they would have to cancel wedding bookings.

Hampshire Police said no one was seriously injured.

Karen Bosman, from Lymington Coastguard, told BBC Breakfast she had never seen conditions like it in The Solent.

She added: "The sustained ferocity I have never seen in my experience. Last night we were getting gusts of 69 knots while this was occurring, and 69 knots is hurricane-force winds.”

The gales turned shingle and rocks into missiles that decimated parts of the seafront, ripping a row of beach huts into shreds and leaving debris strewn over the road.

Many cars had their winds smashed along with dents and scratches and a life ring was dumped hundreds of metres from the shore.

Resident Chris Smith, 23, said the beach, which is popular with local families and tourists in the summer, was "ruined".

"It looks like a war zone," he added. "I reckon there's a couple of million pounds of damage."

Milford on Sea was one of many coastal areas battered by the latest Atlantic storm to hit Britain.

Two people died yesterday in the extreme conditions and thousands of homes are without power, while flooded communities continue to battle rising water levels.

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Additional reporting by Press Association