Storms batter the west coast of the UK, bringing high winds and flooding, as questions are asked about the government’s funding of flood defences.
The Environment Agency currently has eight of its most severe flood warnings in place, meaning there is “danger to life”, spread across the south west, Wales and the Midlands.
Flooding is expected along the west and south coasts of the UK due to a combination of strong winds, large waves and high tides, an official at the Environment Agency said.
Live updating: Environment Agency flood warnings map.
Pete Fox, head of strategy, said: “Coastal paths and promenades could be highly dangerous as there is an increased risk of being swept out to sea. People are warned to stay away from the shoreline.”
As well as the eight severe flood warnings, the Environment Agency has 183 lesser flood warnings in place, meaning “immediate action is required”, and 231 flood alerts, meaning “be prepared”.
Air, sea and land searches are under way for an 18-year-old who has not been seen since he left his home to take pictures of the weather.
Harry Martin left his home in Membland, Newton Ferrers, near Plymouth, Devon, at around midday on Thursday.
Devon and Cornwall Police said Mr Martin was last seen walking in the direction of the coastal path near his home.
In Scotland, the Scottish Environmental Protection Agency has issued 38 flood warnings, focused on the west coast. General flood alerts are in place for areas including Dumfries and Galloway, Ayrshire and Arran, West Central Scotland, Argyll and Bute and Skye and Lochaber and more specific flood warnings have been issued for Oban, Corpach, Caol and Fort William for the morning high tide.
Click on the symbols below to see storm pictures from across the UK.
The agency said it was advising the public to avoid walking on coastal paths and promenades.
The Police Service of Northern Ireland has been deploying sandbags throughout Belfast as it warns of a risk of flooding in the city.
A statement on Friday morning said: “For Belfast city centre, we expect there could be some flooding in the Clarendon Dock, Corporation Street and Sailortown area at 12 noon. We would encourage people who live in this area to begin taking steps to protect their property.”
However, the police service said that the latest meteorological report “gives us a greater degree of confidence that the extensive planning and preparation work undertaken yesterday may help to prevent any serious flooding in the Sydenham area.”
Police have been called out in Wales to order weather watchers away from the coast in Carmarthenshire, because they were putting their lives at risk. Large numbers of people gathered at Burry Port in south west Wales to view the storms hits the coastline, which hits with 70 miles per hour winds and huge waves.
The county council called in police after reports the weather was flining large stones into a carpark where people had gathered.
Further west, firefighters rescued a pregnant woman who was among a number of residents trapped in their homes in St Mary’s Street, Cardigan.
In north Wales five people were rescued from a flooded caravan park in Gwynedd via a lifeboat.
The government has been under pressure over its response to the weather over the festive period, with transport chaos and homes left without power over Christmas.
On Friday the chief executive of the Environment Agency warned that budget cuts are going to hit the ability to manage the risk of floods in the future.
Paul Leinster said: “Flood risk maintenance will be [further] impacted. All of our work on mapping and modelling and new developments in things like flood warning will also have to be resized. And we’re looking at a proportionate reduction in the number of people in flood risk management.”
The GMB union has called on the government to stop the overall job cuts programme at the agency, which it estimates to be about 1,700.
GMB national officer Justin Bowden said: “Since November the UK has been battered by storms and these staffs are working flat out to protect citizens across the nation.
“The public need to know that job losses on this scale will impact specifically directly on flood risk management, on flood defence operations teams managing flood defences and carrying out river maintenance to enables flows to be conveyed away, enhancing the river’s ecology and supporting fish stocks.”
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Environment Secretary Owen Paterson has responded by saying there will be no cuts to front-line defences. Speaking after a meeting of Cobra, the government’s emergencies response committee, on Friday he said: “Like all departments, this department has had to make efficiencies given the dire financial position we inherited when we came to office.
“I had a meeting this morning with the chief executive of the Environment Agency. He has assured me he has every intention of protecting front-line services concerned with flooding.
“His intention is to protect front-line services as he makes his efficiencies. This government is spending more than any previous government on flood defences – 165,000 properties will be protected by 2015.”
The Cobra meeting included representatives from across Government, including the Department of Communities and Local Government (DCLG), the Home Office and the Department for Energy and Climate Change (DECC).
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