JUST three months ago it was left looking like a war zone after being wrecked by 80mph winds that battered the Hampshire coastline.

Diners at a seafront restaurant had to be rescued by soldiers and firefighters after rocks smashed through the windows and a huge tidal surge flooded the ground floor.

Now The Marine at Milford on Sea has reopened – just in time for the busy summer season.

Civic chiefs helped the owner, Richard Thompson, access the cash he needed to repair the art deco-style building, which suffered thousands of pounds of damage during the Valentine’s Day storm.

As reported by the Daily Echo, what was supposed to be a romantic meal turned into a nightmare that saw more than 30 customers fleeing for their lives.

Mr Thompson managed to obtain Government funding for flood-hit businesses, including rate relief and a £5,000 support grant.

The district council also helped him apply for a further grant of up to £5,000 towards the cost of repairs and measures that will improve the property’s ability to withstand future flooding.

Mr Thompson also benefitted from a free business support workshop staged by the council, VisitEngland and Tourism South East.

James Berresford, VisitEngland’s chief executive, said: “It’s really great to see first-hand how our support has helped businesses like The Marine get back on their feet.

“A lot of people were put off visiting flood affected areas.”

Anthony Climpson, the council’s tourism and employment manager, is also celebrating The Marine’s re-opening.

He said: “Coastal businesses play a major part in the visitor experience here in the New Forest and make an important contribution to the local economy.

“It’s vital that they are able to bounce back quickly from unfortunate situations like this.”

Mr Thompson added: “I wouldn’t have been able to do this without the support I received from the council, New Forest Tourism Association and VisitEngland.”