British landmarks damaged by storms as PM suspects climate change

LONDON (AFP) - Fierce storms have destroyed several ancient landmarks on Britain's coastline with Prime Minister David Cameron saying on Wednesday he suspects climate change is to blame for the extreme weather.

A giant rock arch and a huge pillar of stone on the south coast of England both simply crumbled away under the onslaught of massive waves, strong winds and high tides battering the island nation in recent days.

Many parts of Britain have also suffered from flooding caused by heavy rain.

Seven people have died in storms since Dec 23.

Cameron said he thought climate change was to blame and said Britain had to improve its readiness to deal with extreme weather.

"We are seeing more abnormal weather events," he told the House of Commons, the lower chamber of parliament.

"Now, colleagues across the House can argue about whether that is linked to climate change or not. I very much suspect that it is.

"But the point is, whatever one's view, it makes sense to invest in flood defences, it makes sense to invest in mitigation, it makes sense to get information out better and we should do all of those things." This week a centuries-old rock arch at Porthcothan Bay in Cornwall, southwest England, collapsed into a heap of rubble after being battered by towering waves up to 15m high.

A cliff stack known as Pom Pom rock on the so-called Jurassic Coast in Dorset, southern England, also disintegrated.

Nearby, Chesil Beach, a long stretch of coastline made famous in a novel by British writer Ian McEwan, appeared to have had its famed pebbles completely washed away and replaced by sand.

The sea also breached the beach in Aberystwyth, Wales, causing major damage to the Victorian-era seafront.

Floods from the swollen River Thames were meanwhile threatening parts of the historic university city of Oxford.

But there was a less destructive change at Hampton Court Palace in London, built by the six-times-married Tudor king Henry VIII, where water filled the moats for the first time in years.

The storms hitting Britain and northwest France come as the United States has faced days of record cold weather caused by a so-called "polar vortex" from the Arctic.