In pictures: Flood battle continues

The Army is set to carry out a "rapid inspection" of England's flood defences during a five-week programme to assess the damage by the latest flooding.

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The assessment, which Defence Secretary Philip Hammond said would normally take two years to complete, would be carried out as thousands of properties, including homes along the Thames like these in Staines-upon-Thames, have been hit by flooding.

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Mr Hammond said the government had agreed with the Environment Agency that the Royal Engineers would carry out the inspection of flood defences, including those on the Somerset Levels, starting on 24 February.

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David Cameron chaired the government's emergency committee Cobra, on Sunday night and the prime minister said he hoped flood prevention work done in recent days would "minimise the number of homes and businesses affected by the latest high water levels".

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Speaking after the meeting, Mr Cameron said the floods had been a "tragedy for all those affected". He said rain was expected "at times" in the coming days - but "not to the levels we have seen".

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It comes after strong winds and rain have battered parts of the UK and hit road and rail links. Flood water has surrounded sections of the M3 motorway, near to Chertsey, in Surrey.

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About 200 military personnel are expected to be involved in the programme; the government has said it offered troops to civil authorities "a long while ago".

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The Ministry of Defence said rules had changed since the start of the flooding so councils could now recoup all the costs if they call in the military. More than 3,000 armed forces personnel have joined flood relief efforts, while 5,000 were on "varying levels of notice".

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Across parts of the UK the weather has improved on Sunday, with sunshine in parts, including here in Tyne and Wear, where surfers made the most of the "less aggressive" conditions.

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A wakeboarder also made use of flood waters on the Somerset Levels, as meteorologists said the coming week's weather is expected to be "less stormy" than in recent weeks.

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Elsewhere, flood victims are still mopping up the effects of last week's storms, as here in Chertsey, with expectations of more rain "particularly during the second half of the week".

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Climate change is "clearly a factor" in the period of stormy weather the UK has been experiencing, the defence secretary said, as residents in Surrey continue to deal with flooding.

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Pumping water from housing in Staines-upon-Thames. Firefighters are still working to protect homes following the floods, which resulted in about one million properties having their power cut off in the last week.

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