Further heavy rain next week is expected to bring more misery to parts of the UK that have already seen widespread flooding.Seventy-nine flood warnings remain in place throughout the country while there are 117 flood alerts.
Environment Secretary Owen Paterson chaired another meeting of Cobra, the Government’s emergency committee, on Sunday.
He said: “River levels continue to rise and remain high in some areas, particularly parts of the Thames. I have chaired another Cobra meeting today to ensure that the Environment Agency, local authorities and emergency services are well prepared to continue supporting those at risk.”
He urged the public “to remain vigilant” and said the Government was “continuing to focus on flood protection and support for those affected”.
River levels have been rising steadily in counties including Wiltshire, Hampshire, Dorset, Somerset and across the Midlands following days of downpours, the Environment Agency said.
Rivers including the Hampshire Avon through Wiltshire, Hampshire and Dorset, the Stour in Dorset, the Parrett in Somerset and the Severn through the Midlands showed little signs of receding.
Communities along the River Thames throughout Surrey, Berkshire and Oxfordshire have also been warned that they face the risk of flooding.
Met Office forecaster Helen Roberts said more heavy rain was due from today.
“There’s going to be a band of rain coming from the West in the afternoon. It’ll be over south west England from midday and spread slowly eastwards across the rest of the country.”
But she said that although there might be some “moderate to heavy bursts”, there were not significant amounts of rain expected until Wednesday.
Eight people have died and more than 1,700 homes and businesses have been flooded in England since the beginning of the Christmas period, with around 550 properties flooded since the new year. Some 140 properties have been flooded in Wales.
On Sunday, police said coastguards had discovered a body in the sea in the search for missing photography student Harry Martin, but that it had not been identified at this stage.
The 18-year-old left his home in Newton Ferrers, Devon, on January 2 to go out to take pictures of the stormy sea.
In Aberystwyth more than 200 residents volunteered for a three-and-a-half hour clean-up of the town’s promenade, which was severely damaged by storms.
Councillor Ceredig Davies, who represents central Aberystwyth, said: “We used buckets and spades and wheelbarrows to put the sand back from the promenade, where it was washed in the storms.
“There were thousands of tonnes of sand there and the volume shifted by people today was hundreds of tonnes.
“It was great community spirit. It was back-breaking work but everyone felt that they had achieved something. They felt like they were doing their bit in putting our promenade back to how we like it.”