Large parts of the UK are on high alert for heavy rain and gale force winds as the Environment Agency issues over 50 flood warnings across England and Wales.

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Flooding and dangerous weather is expected to worsen this weekend with warnings of heavy rain later on Saturday. Many areas are already saturated with water following the persistent rainfall this week, despite yesterday's brief respite from the stormy weather.

The government's Environment Agency issued over 50 flood warnings - meaning flooding is likely - with south-west England, the Midlands and Cumbria the worst affected. Another 160 places are being watched amid fears of possible flooding.

The agency said nearly 300 properties had been flooded across the UK since Tuesday, and that more than 100 people had to leave their homes.

More than one inch of rain will fall in some areas which will not be welcome given the recent flooding. It will be quite disruptive. MeteoGroup spokesman

A man died on Friday after flood waters trapped his car under a bridge in the south west of England after hours of torrential downpours.

Winds of more than 86mph (135kph) were recorded.

A spokesman for the MeteoGroup said: "There will be substantial rainfall over the next 24 hours into Sunday morning for most of the UK.

"More than one inch of rain will fall in some areas which will not be welcome given the recent flooding. It will be quite disruptive. Winds will strong throughout the day but particularly overnight reaching peaks of up to 60mph on the south coast."

He added that the rain and winds will begin in the south of England and Wales before pushing north throughout the day and overnight.

Travel disruption

The rain also brought disruption for thousands of commuters with timetables disrupted across most of Britain. Delays were also reported on cross-Channel ferry crossings from Dover to France.

The AA said the last few days had been some of its busiest for flood-related call-outs, while high winds brought down power lines in the South West and Wales, where 3,000 customers were without power.

Those injured in weather-related incidents included an elderly pedestrian whose head was cut after being struck by a tree, two teenage girls taken to hospital with head and shoulder injuries, and a female driver in her 50s who escaped with minor injuries after her car was crushed by a falling tree trunk.

Darron Burness, the AA's head of special operations, said yesterday: "With more heavy rain forecast across the Midlands, Wales and the South West, road conditions in the affected areas are likely to only get worse as the ground is so saturated.

"Even if you think you know your local roads, don't be complacent, as flash-flooding continues to be a real risk and is catching people out."

Meanwhile, Network Rail said trains were likely to be suspended between Exeter and Bristol until Monday.

90-year-old Diana Mallows is rescued from her flooded home in Somerset (pic: Reuters)

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