Feb 8 2014
Britons are being warned they face more misery as the torrential rain and ferocious gales that have battered the country will continue for several days.
Forecasters have warned that 70mph winds and further downpours that have hit large parts of the already flood-hit south of England will last into next week.
The crisis-hit Somerset Levels - where many residents have already been forced from their homes after weeks of heavy rain - remain at the highest risk of continued flooding.
There are nearly 300 low-level flood alerts and almost 200 medium-risk flood warnings in place across Wales and southern and central England, while several hundred homes in Dorset, Surrey and Cornwall were without power.
The west country is now completely cut off by rail following a landslip on the line at Crewkerne in Somerset and flooding at nearby Bridgwater and Athelney.
This latest blow comes days after a stretch of the rail line connecting Cornwall to the rest of the country fell into the sea at Dawlish in Devon when an 80-metre stretch of the sea wall was destroyed by high tides and stormy seas.
Rail operators have put on replacement bus services and slashed ticket prices for passengers.
The Met Office was warning that further rain, wind and waves were likely to cause more flood risks this weekend and into next week as river levels continue to rise along the Thames, the Severn and the Dorset Stour.
England has faced the wettest January since 1766, and with the ground already saturated, further rainfall is increasing flood risk across the country, especially in the south.
Successive bands of rain that have been affecting the country all week are expected to ease on Monday before continuing again from Tuesday.
Since before Christmas around 5,000 properties have been affected by flooding across the country, including 40 in Somerset.
Paul Gundersen, Met Office chief meteorologist, said: "We have another Atlantic storm bringing gales and heavy downpours to many parts of the UK this weekend.
"Monday is expected to bring a brief respite from the stormy conditions before more strong winds and rain set in from the west on Tuesday.
"This will bring the continuing risk of flooding and damaging winds bringing down trees to cause disruption to travel and power networks."
Pete Fox, head of strategy and investment at the Environment Agency (EA), said: "The weather continues to be hugely challenging, with further wind and waves threatening the south west coast and even more rain threatening to cause flooding along rivers across the south west, central and southern England.
"We urge people to stay safe and not to walk or drive through flood water which can be dangerous and to take care near coastal paths and promenades for fear of being swept away."
The Ministry of Defence has put 1,500 personnel on six hours notice to help in the south of the country if needed.
EA staff have been out in force across England to try to stop more people falling victim to the storms by installing flood defences, repairing damaged coastal defences, deploying sandbags and clearing river blockages.
At Chiswell in Dorset the authorities are being assisted by the armed forces to shore up sea defences that were damaged in last week's storms.
On the Somerset Levels, demountable defences that were requisitioned from other parts of the country have been erected to help protect homes in the village of Fordgate and Northmoor.
The pumping operation is continuing day and night, with nearly three million tonnes of water being pumped away every day - the equivalent of three Wembley Stadiums.
The River Thames in the Chertsey area of Surrey had burst its banks and home-owners were warned to expect flooding.
In Kent, there was localised flooding in parts of Bridge, near Canterbury. In Yalding - which was badly hit over Christmas - the Little Venice caravan park flooded again.
In East Sussex, the ruined 148-year-old, Grade-I listed West Pier in Brighton survived another night of stormy weather after a large section collapsed into the English Channel on Wednesday.
The continued storms come after the Prime Minister pledged to do everything he can to help the flood-stricken communities of the Somerset Levels but warned solutions would take some time.
David Cameron's visit to the region yesterday coincided with a trip by beleaguered EA chairman Lord Smith to the area, where he faced furious residents and calls to quit.
Mr Cameron and Lord Smith's visits - a week after Environment Secretary Owen Paterson was heckled by local residents - came as Royal Marines were helping evacuate some 140 properties in the village of Moorland.
Another night of heavy rain overwhelmed local flood defences and, despite advice from police, a handful of people have chosen to remain in their homes.
Meanwhile, Communities Secretary Eric Pickles has ordered a flood defence repair audit of both EA defences and private defences.
"I want to reassure the country that everything possible is being done to help those communities affected by these terrible storms, and work to be prepared for any further bad weather we may see in the days ahead," Mr Pickles said.
Labour seized on a report that a plea for emergency funding to dredge rivers was sent by farmers to David Cameron in August as proof of Government "neglect".
Shadow environment secretary Maria Eagle said: "Ministers have done nothing but dither and delay throughout the winter floods.
"This is further evidence that David Cameron made the wrong decision on flood protection funding and shows that neither he nor his Environment Secretary take the issue of flooding seriously."