Forecasters have warned of the likelihood of further flooding in parts of the south-west, with severe gales and heavy rainfall set to cause further disruption.
The warnings come after prime minister David Cameron pledged to take all the necessary steps to help residents in the flood-stricken Somerset Levels. The situation in the region has become so severe that Royal Marines have been deployed to maintain overwhelmed flood defences, while many residents have been urged to leave their homes.
Cameron travelled to the levels on Friday, saying, “It’s a biblical scene.”
“The scale of it here in Somerset is immense when you think of how many square miles are under water”, he added.
“Clearly people here have faced a very tough time and continue to face a tough time and that’s why we have got to do everything we can to help.”
Cameron promised “the money is there” to help Somerset recover, and again said that the Environment Agency would begin dredging local rivers when the floodwater had sufficiently receded.
“These are difficult times clearly across the south-west with real needs. But these things are going to take time – I don’t want to make any false promises to people“, he said.
“We will do everything we can, the resources are there, the money is there, the councils will get the money from central government, the military are on standby to help where they can.”
Cameron’s visit coincided with that of Lord Smith, chairman of the Environment Agency. Smith angered many residents of the levels last week when he warned that the government would eventually have to choose between defending cities or the countryside from increasingly frequent floods.
Locals have also demanded to know why the agency failed to dredge the affected rivers before the flooding began, though Smith insisted this would not necessarily have helped.
Asked if he considered stepping down after recent criticism, Smith said, “I have no intention of resigning because I’m very proud of the work the Environment Agency and its staff have been doing right round the country in the face of the most extreme weather.”
Much of southern Britain witnessed the wettest January on record last month, and for many residents there is still no end in sight.
The Met Office has issued amber warnings in London, south-east England, south-west England and Wales, predicting that more downpours and winds of up to 80mph will batter parts of the UK on Saturday and Sunday.
The Environment Agency has issued three severe flood warnings – meaning there is a danger to life – in the south-west. It is feared the rainfall will bring flooding to previously unaffected parts of the country.
Experts have warned that such flooding is likely to become an increasingly common feature of Britain’s weather as climate change takes hold. On Wednesday, government advisors said that the UK must spend an extra £500m over the next four years to keep pace with global warming.