Britain is braced for further heavy rain in areas already saturated after being battered by storms.The Met Office has severe weather warnings for rain for southern and south-west England and south Wales from Thursday afternoon.
The Environment Agency has two severe flood warnings in the Somerset Levels.
A meeting of the government’s emergency committee Cobra will be chaired by Communities Secretary Eric Pickles in place of the environment secretary.
Owen Paterson has been forced to pull out of leading the government’s response to the floods to have emergency surgery on a detached retina.
‘Rain is back’
Forecasters said there could be 20mm-40mm (0.8in-1.6in) on saturated ground, with further bouts of rain to come into the weekend.
BBC weather presenter Matt Taylor said: “After some dry and bright weather to begin with across central southern parts of England and Wales, I’m afraid to say the rain is back – some heavy and persistent rain nudging its way northwards through the afternoon to take us into the early evening rush-hour.
“The winds although not much of a feature of this to begin with… will strengthen as we go through Thursday night into Friday morning.”
The Met Office has amber severe weather warnings – meaning “be prepared” – for rain for parts of southern England from 15:00 GMT.
There are yellow severe weather warnings – “be aware” – for areas including south-west England and south Wales from 12:00 GMT.
The Environment Agency has severe flood warnings – meaning “danger to life” – in Somerset at Salt Moor and North Moor including Moorland, and at the A361 East Lyng to Burrowbridge.
There are about 60 flood warnings in England and Wales and more than 200 flood alerts. In Scotland, there are four flood warnings in Tayside, and a number of flood alerts.
The environment secretary, whose handling of the crisis has been widely criticised, had been due to chair Thursday’s Cobra meeting and make a Commons statement.
Downing Street said Mr Paterson was expected to be off “for a few days” after surgery.
A spokesman said: “In his absence, Communities Secretary Eric Pickles will be in charge of the government’s response to the floods.”
Western Power Distribution said 953 customers were still without power across south-west England, 490 of these in Cornwall.
The company said about 44,000 customers had been affected by power cuts since Tuesday afternoon.
Many residents in the Somerset Levels have been evacuated amid fears flood defences could be overwhelmed.
Sue Sayer, in the village of Moorland, said: “They’re advising, if you can, go. But there’s an awful lot of people that are not because the risk then of looting if people see empty houses.
“There has already been looting in some properties, not directly in the centre of the village, but on the outskirts there’s already been looting which is despicable.”
PC Rob Jacobs, from Avon and Somerset Police, who was on patrol locally, said some areas were already impassable.
“We’ve got 4×4 vehicles but even then the access isn’t great,” he said.
“We’ve just tried to come down one way round into Fordgate and I think the water is probably a bit too deep. A couple of local farmers advised us that one route we were looking at to come down is at least 3ft, probably more.”
The storm damaged the railway at Dawlish in Devon after a part of the sea wall collapsed and left the tracks suspended in mid-air.
First Great Western said the line between Exeter St Davids and Plymouth was closed, and Network Rail estimated it could take at least six weeks to repair.
Limited services were running between Plymouth and Penzance, with rail replacement services due to be provided from Thursday.
Prime Minister David Cameron chaired his first Cobra meeting of 2014, and announced an extra £100m for flood works.