A ROW of historic cottages was destroyed during an extreme storm as an 80ft tree came crashing down onto them.

The owners of the three homes, off Paglesham Road, Paglesham, have been forced to live in temporary accommodation after firefighters deemed the cottages structurally unsafe.

One of the cottages in the row is believed to be 400 years old.

It is understood the tree collapse, which has left the occupants temporarily homeless, was caused by a combination of heavy rainfall and high winds.

Crews from Rochford fire station attended the incident shortly after noon on Tuesday, when they deemed the properties unsafe.

A station spokesman said: "When crews arrived they found a 80ft tree had been blown over and collapsed into a row of houses.

“Crews worked with guidance of structural engineer to clear the tree off the properties, make the properties safe and the area was cordoned off to public.

“It was deemed that all three properties were structurally unsafe for living in and the council has made arrangements for temporary living for these home owners."

The fire service left the scene in the care of the council.

Jonathon Steward, 50, managing director of Tree Fella, was at the site with his team lifting the tree from the cottages and helping make the area safe.

He said: “It was the high winds coupled with the rain. The wind caught it and it just came down. The tree just failed.

"It went through the cottage and took the chimney off. It smashed through the house. We are here to get the tree out and make it safe."

Pauline Palmer, barmaid at the Plough and Sail pub, in Paglesham Road, believes the incident was partly due to the tree being rotten and not looked after properly.

She said: “All we know is that the tree came down. Apparently it was rotten and got blown over and went through the roof. They preserve these things but don’t bother checking them.

“It’s been classed as dangerous over there. It has affected the chimney and part of the roof, that’s as much as I know.”

Resident Ginny Bench, 56, of nearby Waterside Lane, said nothing like this has ever happened before in the neighbourhood.

She added: “One of my neighbours saw all the flashing lights, the fire brigade were here. It’s never happened before here. I wondered what on earth was going on."

The storm in the early hours of Tuesday caused major disruption across south Essex, with Canvey and Southend seafronts suffering as surface water blocked roads and seeped into properties.