The Environment Agency increases the number of severe flood warnings in place across the south of the UK, and warns that flood problems will continue to hit the UK for another week.
Above: The Gurkha regiment help place sandbags outside residential properties along the River Thames.
Forecasters warn that the appalling conditions which have forced evacuations and ruined many properties, show no signs of easing, with heavy rain also expected on Saturday.
The Met Office has warned that a “multi-pronged attack” could bring up to 40mm of rain in just six hours in the south west, as well as gusts of up to 80mph in some parts of the country. The rain is expected to move north into Scotland.
The Environment Agency (EA) has 23 severe flood warnings in place in the Thames Valley and Somerset, as well as over 100 flood warnings across England and Wales. Most of the severe flood warnings are in the south east.
There are more than 300 flood warnings in place across the country.
There are 15 severe flood warnings in place for the south east of the country – focused around the Thames. Locations that have been highlighted for severe floods include Chertsey, Shepperton Green, Laleham, Hamm Court and Lymington.
This remains a very live event. I expect we will see further property flooding. Peter Willison, Environment Agency
The number of severe flood warnings in place for the south west increased from four to seven throughout Friday, with places such as Dawlish, Lyme Regis, Chiswell and Christchurch on alert.
The Environment Agency has warned that the flooding crisis is likely to continue for a “number of days”.
Peter Willison of the EA told a Whitehall briefing: “We are likely to see more severe flood warnings along the south coast representing the risk from very strong and big waves.
“The rainfall that we will see today, that will bring river levels back up on the Thames and we expect levels on slow responding rivers like the Thames, like the Severn, to stay high for a number of days to come.
“This remains a very live event. I expect we will see further property flooding.”
As well as surface water problems the rain could also impact on already full to bursting rivers while some coastal areas could be at risk as blustery conditions could bring large waves.
Around 56,000 households remain without power after gusts of up to 108mph battered parts of the country in what has been dubbed the “Wild Wednesday” storms, which left one man dead and hundreds stranded as transport networks were hit.
More than 2,000 armed forces personnel are helping to install temporary flood defences across the Thames Valley, such as in Chertsey, Surrey, where protection is being given to 200 homes, and in Staines upon Thames in Berkshire to protect 150 homes.
Chertsey councill Derek Cotty said there had been a “terrific response from the community to defend themselves”. He was speaking in front of defences that have been brought into the area, the “Chertsey sausage”, which is a new flod defence system from Sweden.
The Duke of Cambridge and his brother Prince Harry also joined colleagues from the armed forces in helping with the supply of sandbags to defend Datchet, Berkshire. The Queen has also contributed to the aid effort, donating feed and bedding to the formers of the Somerset Levels, from the royal farms at Windsor.
EA programme director Toby Willison said he expected hundreds more properties to be flooded. Windsor, Maidenhead and communities along the Thames in Surrey remain at high risk of flooding from the River Thames, with significant flooding of homes and businesses expected.
Flooding continues on the Somerset Levels and Moors, and there is still a high risk of coastal floods in Dorset.
EA chief executive Paul Leinster said: “We ask people to remain vigilant and take action where necessary. We expect to see river levels rising again with more rain forecast for Friday and Saturday.”
The Environment Agency has confirmed that it has suspended plans to cut hundreds of jobs. In an email to staff, Mr Leinster said: “We will not be seeking any further engagement with staff on ways of working during this period and will not be entering into any formal consultation arrangements.”
In the highlands of Wales, northern England, Northern Ireland and Scotland, the rain could turn to snow, with 5cm to 10cm (2-4 ins) falling above 300 metres and perhaps as much as 20cm (8 ins) above 400 metres.
A firefighter wades through chest high water in the flooded village of Datchet
Since early December, 5,800 properties have been flooded across the country. Prime Minister David Cameron said that, while the country was in the grip of the severe weather, it remained the government’s immediate priority to do all it could to help affected local communities and coordinate the emergency response.
“We are doing everything we can to help people and businesses deal with the flooding and get back on their feet. And through this new Cabinet committee we are doing all we can to ensure resilience in the future,” he said.
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