UK storms: Giant waves hit amid fresh flooding fears

BBC science editor David Shukman : ''The barrage of bad weather...is highly unusual''

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Huge waves have battered southern and western coasts of the UK, as forecasters warn exposed areas could see a fresh round of flooding.

Waves of up to 27ft (8m) were recorded off Land's End, Cornwall.

The environment secretary said seven people had died and 1,700 homes had been flooded in England due to storms and flooding in December and January.

There are currently three severe flood warnings in place in England and travel by road and rail is being hit.

In Aberystwyth, all buildings along the promenade have been evacuated after Natural Resources Wales (NRW) warned of an "exceptional" wave swell expected later.

Woman rescued

Western and southern areas have borne the brunt of the latest severe weather, with flooding leaving some villages in Somerset cut off, properties flooded in Cornwall, rivers bursting their banks in Tewkesbury, Gloucestershire, and residents forced from their homes in the centre of Salisbury, Wiltshire.

The Environment Agency has warned communities in Dorset, Oxfordshire, south Wiltshire, Hampshire and along the Thames to "remain prepared" for more flooding on Monday and the rest of the week.

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There are currently three severe flood warnings for parts of Dorset - indicating danger to life and property - for the Lower Stour, Chiswell and Preston Beach near Weymouth.

There are also scores of lower-level flood warnings and alerts in force in England and Wales, as well as several in Scotland.

People watch and photograph enormous waves as they break on Porthcawl harbour, South Wales The south and west coasts would see "colossal waves" like these at Porthcawl, near Bridgend, say forecasters
Waves crash on to the promenade at Blackpool as high tides and huge waves hit the west coast of the UK Waves crashed on to the promenade in Blackpool
A house in the village of Bury is surrounded by flood water from the River Arun Some parts of England - including Bury in West Sussex - are already under water, with more flooding expected
Anne-Marie Simpson said she was "keen to get away" after 13 days surrounded by floodwater One woman was rescued after 13 days surrounded by floodwater on the Somerset Levels
Tewkesbury, Gloucestershire There was flooding in Tewkesbury, Gloucestershire, as rivers burst their banks
Local people at the Connswater River in Belfast Belfast escaped major flooding at high tide, despite residents being prepared for the worst
A motorist steers his vehicle along a flooded road in the village of Buscot Wick, near Oxford, Drivers in many parts of the UK, including the village of Buscot Wick, near Oxford, have had to take extra precautions

The Met Office has yellow weather warnings - the lowest of its three levels - in place for wind and rain for south and south-eastern England.

'Island of 200'

Muchelney is mentioned in the Domesday Book. Its records go back hundreds of years.

Only once - last year - has it ever been this badly affected. It is cut off by flooding on all sides.

The island of reclaimed land - a tiny bump in the flat Somerset levels - is home to 200.

David and Tracey Bradley are using their canoe to make the mile-long paddle from their house to Huish Episcopi where they can pick up supplies.

They say they have been unable to drive in or out since Friday.

The village pulls together when it gets cut off - but people are beginning to run out of fresh food.

It will take two weeks for the water to clear, they say. Unless it rains more.

Environment Secretary Owen Paterson chaired a Cobra emergency meeting to ensure agencies are ready to respond, and made a statement to the Commons on the impact of the bad weather.

Mr Paterson told MPs there was "a risk of groundwater flooding in Dorset and Wiltshire for some time to come and we need to remain vigilant".

"Approximately 1,700 properties have been flooded in England so far, with Kent, Sussex, Surrey, Devon, Cornwall and Dorset particularly affected, although there were also impacts in the Midlands and the North West," he said.

There had also been flooding in Northern Ireland and Scotland and 140 properties in Wales flooded, he said.

Mr Paterson said the country's electricity network operators deserved credit for reconnecting "unprecedented" number of people cut-off, but added there were "lessons to be learned about how customers are supported and informed during power cuts".

He again defended spending on flood defences, following criticism over the weekend, saying the government was spending "more than ever before".

Prof David Balmforth of the Institution of Civil Engineers told the BBC: "I don't think we've woken up to the increased threat of flooding in the future due to climate change.

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"What we're seeing today as a rare event is likely to become much more frequent in the future and therefore it's important that we do continue to invest in flood defences."

Rebecca Davies, pro vice-chancellor of Aberystwyth University, said about 150 students in seafront accommodation had been moved to another campus and a further 100 in private homes have also left.

Exams scheduled for this week have been postponed until next week, she said, and students who have not yet returned to the university are being urged to stay away until the middle of the week.

The village of Muchelney, on the Somerset Levels, has been cut off for about four days.

Residents David and Tracey Bradley said they were making daily trips in their canoe to fetch essential supplies.

"It's pretty desolate really, especially for the elderly and the children," said Mrs Bradley.

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