Floods in UK: Travel disrupted by heavy rain in northern England and Wales

  • 26 November 2012
  • From the section UK
Media captionThe BBC's Danny Savage reports from Northallerton, North Yorkshire, where a hospital cancelled all surgery as flood waters threatened its operating theatres

Flooding is disrupting parts of the road and rail network, and damaging buildings as heavy rain falls on north-east England and north Wales.

Closures, delays and safety warnings are affecting dozens of A-roads, while cancellations and delays have also hit some national rail services.

About 200 flood warnings and 300 alerts are in force in England and Wales.

The environment secretary urged people to keep up to date with flood warnings to avoid "terrible tragedies".

Some 800 homes, mainly in south-west England, were flooded at the weekend, and two people died in the storms.

Devon and Cornwall were particularly badly hit, along with Malmesbury in Wiltshire and Kempsey in Worcestershire - where a new £1.5 million flood defence project broke down after an electrical problem.

Image caption Floods have hit a wide area of England and Wales

Environment Secretary Owen Paterson, visiting Exeter where the river Exe burst its banks, said: "It's a bit hard to focus on one failure when we've had a very large number of schemes working successfully over the past few days and which will continue to work as this wet weather comes in over the coming few days.

"But I think I would ask everyone to work together - work with the Environment Agency, look at the website, so you can get warned, because I am worried some of these terrible tragedies we've had could have been avoided if people had kept themselves up to date with the information we're putting up."

He later told MPs that the Environment Agency would carry out a detailed investigation into what happened at Kempsey.

Mr Paterson said there was continued risk of more flooding in parts of north-east England and north Wales as rain falls on saturated land during Monday, and more homes could be evacuated, given the overnight forecast.

He said as floodwaters recede, the emergency services will switch to a recovery phase, and local authorities will be eligible for emergency financial assistance.

"I want to assure the House that the Environment Agency and their local emergency partners, including local authorities, are working round the clock and doing all they can to prevent flooding in areas currently at risk."

The two areas forecast to be worst affected by heavy rain on Monday were the north-east of England, and Yorkshire and Humber regions, while north Wales would suffer from rain falling on already-saturated ground, potentially leading to flooding.

The Met Office issued amber "be prepared" weather warnings for all three areas, valid until midnight.

The Environment Agency, which tries to reduce the risk of flooding, has issued 185 flood warnings across England and Wales, which mean people should take action because flooding is expected. There are also 278 less severe flood alerts - indicating people should prepare for possible flooding.

The flooding of hundreds of homes comes at a "crisis point" in talks between insurance companies and the government about flood cover.

An existing agreement, reached in 2008 but set to end in June 2013, obliges insurers to provide cover for high-risk properties while the government continues to improve flood defences.

Image caption North Yorkshire roads have suffered during Monday's heavy rain

The insurance industry said many thousands more householders could see premiums rise if no deal was struck between insurers and the government, but Mr Paterson said it was "not helpful to alarm people when we are in close, detailed negotiations."

South-west England continued to suffer considerable disruption to rail services on Monday, while flooding also caused delays on the following routes: between Durham and York; between Derby and Nottingham/Loughborough; between Shrewsbury and Craven Arms; and between Bangor and Holyhead.

A landslip near Dorking, Surrey, has also disrupted services between London and Horsham, West Sussex.

The Association of Train Operating Companies said, as of 14:00 GMT, 20% of trains across Britain did not arrive on time on Monday because of the bad weather.

On the roads, some of the worst-hit areas have been in Herefordshire, Worcestershire and Shropshire.

The Scottish Environment Protection Agency, Sepa, has two flood alerts in place in the Borders and Edinburgh and Lothians regions. There are none in Northern Ireland.

In developments around the country:

Mr Paterson said farmers had also suffered, particularly in the Somerset Levels, where crops and grazing had been damaged.

But Stephen Gilbert, the Liberal Democrat MP for St Austell and Newquay, said the events of the last two days "should be a wake-up call for a government that needs to grip this issue and do so quickly".

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