Weather warning for flood-hit areas

Messenger Newspapers: Flood water covers part of the Somerset Levels near Burrowbridge Flood water covers part of the Somerset Levels near Burrowbridge

Householders have been told to brace themselves as further wind and rain threatens to bring more chaos to waterlogged communities across Britain.

Around 180 homes were flooded during what has been a busy weekend for the emergency services and Environment Agency workers up and down the country.

In the south of England, 1.5 million tonnes of water a day were pumped off the Somerset Levels in an around-the-clock bid to alleviate residents' five-week flooding hell.

In Wales, more than 50 mountain rescuers had to battle atrocious weather conditions during a a daring eight-hour rescue in the Cambrian Mountains.

And in Scotland, coastguards have braved the rough seas in the hunt for a missing angler.

But as flood-hit communities enjoyed a break in the bad weather on Sunday, forecasters warned there may be worse to come.

The Environment Agency warned the whole of the south of England will be at an "increased risk" of flooding within the next 24 hours.

The agency's flood risk manager, Kate Marks, said that as high tides and large waves threaten the south coast, further rain on already saturated ground could lead to river flooding.

She said: "With further severe weather conditions expected in the coming days, the Environment Agency is likely to issue further warnings so people should check their flood risk and get early warnings so they can take action to protect their property."

Since early December, the UK has been hit by "extraordinary" weather and flooding.

Those bearing the brunt of the storms have been in the south of England, where villagers in Somerset are bracing themselves for a sixth consecutive week of flooding.

The village of Muchelney has been only accessible by boat, while those living near Moorlands and Burrowbridge have anxiously been keeping an eye on water levels.

Among them is 35-year-old father-of-two Gavin Sadler.

The smallholder, who is a member of campaign group Flooding on the Levels Action Group (FLAG), said: "I've been looking out at where my garden used to be and I can now see a lake instead.

"There's only been a slight drop in water levels, but with more rain there's growing concern about the situation.

"We were in the same boat last year and were told it was a one in a 100-year flood - now it's happened again."

Locals have also been on edge following the discovery by microbiologist that flood waters contained more than 60 times the safe level of bacteria.

Two specialist all-terrain vehicles have been sent to the county along with extra pumping equipment.

While the number of severe flood warnings decreased from nine to three over the weekends, 78 flood warnings and 265 flood alerts remained place across England and Wales.

But with further rain expected following the wettest January on record in some places, saturated ground and high river levels could lead to further river flooding this week.

Officials say fresh flooding could affect the south coasts of Devon and Cornwall tomorrow as well as Somerset, Dorset, Hampshire and the Isle of Wight.

The River Severn in Shropshire, Telford and Wrekin, Worcestershire and Gloucestershire, the Frome and Avon in Dorset, the river Thames and its tributaries in Oxfordshire, West Berkshire, Reading, Slough and Hampshire and the Medway in Kent are all of concern this week.

The Environment Agency said aside from the obvious dangers of flood water, just six inches of fast-flowing water was enough to knock someone off their feet and a mere cup-full can damage a vehicle's engine.

In Newgale, west Wales, 10 people had to be plucked from a bus in the dark after it got stuck on the seafront.

Coastguards said the vehicle had been hit by a large wave before being surrounded by flood water.

Another dramatic rescue in the principality took place on Saturday when a group of students got lost while attempting to tackle the 752-metre Pumlumon mountain, between Aberystwyth and Llanidloes.

Brecon Mountain Rescue Team incident manager Dave Coombs said: "The weather conditions were atrocious, with gales, sleet and driving rain, and too severe for search and rescue helicopters to assist.

"The students were lucky that the combined rescue teams found them when they did. The conditions were atrocious and it could have been much less of a happy ending had they had been on the mountain much longer."

Six French fishermen off the coast of Cornwall also managed a lucky escape after their boat was hit by a giant wave.

Helicopter crews had to winch five of the men from crew from the sea, while the sixth was rescued by lifeboat.

However, north of the border, fears are growing for the safety of a missing fisherman who went missing on the Aberdeenshire coast in the early hours of the morning.

The man was night fishing at Tangle-Ha, north of St Cyrus, when he disappeared from rocks in what were described as "exceedingly rough" conditions.

A spokesman for the coastguard said: "We have completed our search and nothing has been found."

However, nature's frightening power did not deter a group of 30 daredevils who rode the waves of the "five-star" tidal surge the Severn Bore on Sunday morning.

People took to the water in canoes and surfboards, despite official warnings to stay away.

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