More rain could add to flooding woe

Herald Series: With more heavy rain forecast for the flooded Somerset Levels, a "major incident" has been declared With more heavy rain forecast for the flooded Somerset Levels, a "major incident" has been declared

Forecasters warned of more heavy rain in south west England and further flooding on the Somerset Levels today.

The Met Office has issued an amber warning of severe weather for the south west and the Environment Agency has issued more than 100 flood alerts and 10 more serious flood warnings in the region, which mean flooding is expected and immediate action is required.

Somerset County Council has declared a "major incident" for all areas affected by flooding in the county.

Deputy chief executive Pat Flaherty said: "Our priority has to be to keep people safe.

"We are doing everything we can to do this and we believe that declaring a major incident shows just how urgent the situation is for many of our residents and communities.

"The reason we are taking this action is the long-term nature of the issues we are facing and to enable a consistent approach to the way that we deal with them."

The county council will continue its help and support for people affected by flooding which includes a boat service for the cut-off community of Muchelney and Thorney, providing a pontoon bridge at Langport, supporting farmers providing a vital tractor service to communities, keeping roads open and evacuating residents when necessary.

Sedgemoor District Council has also declared a "major incident" on the Somerset Levels.

Many communities are still coming to terms with the flooding that hit Somerset at the beginning of January and now face further problems.

The chief forecaster for the Met Office said: "More heavy rain will spread east across the area on Sunday. Given the current disruption on the Somerset Levels, the public should be prepared for further flooding."

They added that rain across the UK would be accompanied by strong winds, and rainfall accumulations of 10 to 20mm were expected.

The Environment Agency said that communities across southern England should again prepare for possible flooding as the Met Office forecasts further heavy rain for tomorrow through to Tuesday.

A spokeswoman said: "With the ground already saturated, rivers and groundwater levels remain very responsive to rainfall, particularly on the Somerset Levels.

"Environment Agency teams continue to operate up to 62 pumps 24 hours a day to drain an estimated 65 million cubic metres of floodwater off an area of the Levels spanning 65 square kilometres."

There is also potential for further river flooding across the south west and southern counties.

The risk of flooding from groundwater continues in parts of Wiltshire, Dorset, Hampshire, West Sussex, West Berkshire and Surrey into next week.

Yesterday, strong winds caused damage to houses and forced residents to be evacuated from a street in a Warwickshire town.

Bricks and roof tiles were dislodged from houses in Hickman Road, Nuneaton, as high winds hit the area.

Many people dialled 999 as the storm swept through the street but nobody was hurt, Warwickshire Police said.

Several residents were given shelter in the local community hall.

A force spokesman said two of the houses in Hickman Road were badly affected with extensive damage to the roofs, three further properties have significant damage, and others have had roof tiles blown off.

Fire, police and ambulance services were sent to assess the damage and check for casualties.

Superintendent Martin Samuel, Northern Area Commander for Warwickshire Police, said, "Thankfully, despite our initial fears, no-one was injured as a result of the damage to the properties.

"The community hall at nearby St Peter's Church was made available for people to go to while structural engineers from Nuneaton and Bedworth Borough Council carried out safety assessments on the houses that had been damaged."

Some residents were not expected to be able to return to their homes last night.

A spokeswoman for Nuneaton and Bedworth Borough Council said: "We are currently working to clear the debris in the area.

"We will also have officers from the council at St Peter's Church Hall on Sunday morning between 10am and 11.30am to offer further advice, help and support to anyone affected by the storm damage."

Elsewhere in the county the emergency services and the highways agency have been working with local councils to deal with a number of other storm related incidents including trees which had been brought down by the strong winds, and flooded roads as a result of the heavy rain.

Avon and Somerset Police launched their underwater search team today in a bid to use their boat to reach flood-hit homes in Mulcheney on Somerset Levels.

The team also gave fire prevention and health and safety advice to residents who have been affected by the floods.

Much of the area remains under water and more rain is expected to fall overnight and residents are being told to prepare for further flooding.

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