UK floods: River levels rise as rain and wind sweep in

Princes William and Harry were filmed shifting sandbags in Datchet, Berkshire

Thousands of sandbags are being piled up to protect homes and businesses as more heavy rain and gale-force winds sweep across southern Britain.

With river levels expected to rise, the Environment Agency has made 30,000 sandbags available to properties near the Thames in Berkshire and Surrey.

Princes William and Harry have helped pile sandbags in Datchet, Berkshire.

All train services west of Plymouth are cancelled for the rest of the day, and there will be no replacement buses.

First Great Western said coach companies had refused to run rail replacement services in Cornwall due to the "unsafe" conditions.

In Wales, more than 16,000 properties remain without power following Wednesday's winds of up to 112mph.

A man has died in hospital after being hit by a falling tree in his garden in Gwynedd during Wednesday's storm.

Live flood warnings from the Environment Agency and the Scottish Environment Protection Agency

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The Environment Agency has issued 24 severe flood warnings covering parts of Cornwall, Devon, Somerset, Dorset, Gloucestershire, Hampshire, Berkshire and Surrey.

The latest warnings are for various places along the south coast of England.

The Met Office said that following the heavy rain that had fallen in many places during the day, it expected "potentially damaging" severe gales in southern England during the evening and into Saturday morning.

Snow has started falling in parts of northern England, Northern Ireland and parts of Scotland.

BBC Weather's Peter Gibbs said that with gusts of up to 80mph likely, there was a danger of high tides bringing fresh coastal flooding.

The weather is expected to gradually improve on Saturday, the Met Office says, leaving a better day on Sunday and "less intense" showers on Monday.

A man climbs over a high pile of sandbags to get into the front door of a house Sandbags are being used to defend homes in Gloucester, where a severe flood warning is in place
Kingsand is hit by a huge wave England's south coast, including Kingsand in Cornwall, is being battered by huge waves
David Cameron speaks to farmer Tim Hook as they walk along a road next to flooded land David Cameron spoke to farmer Tim Hook and he visited flooded land near Bampton, Oxfordshire
Weather forecast map showing high winds in the UK High winds are expected, especially on England's south coast, on Friday evening and Saturday morning

The Environment Agency said flood levels on the Thames had "stabilised in the last 24 hours", but the latest rainfall would cause levels to rise again and stay high for several days.

Fighting the floods

Flood victim turned flood expert Mary Dhonau says prioritising is essential when water is heading towards your door.

"In an emergency flood situation you need to quickly prioritise. Make sure everything that is important to you is moved to out of the way to high ground.

"My worst experience of flooding was soon after my young son was diagnosed with autism and we lost all of his specialist toys.

"Just pick up as much as you can and get it upstairs. Turn off all you electrics and gas and get electrical items far from the water.

"I hate sandbags with a vengeance. But as a last resort they will do. If there's time, gaffer tape polythene sheeting against the walls before propping the sandbags against it.

"If the emergency services tell you to leave your home then do as you're told. Remember that you will get through it."

More advice on how to react

Programme director Peter Willison said: "This remains a very live event. I expect we will see further property flooding."

Alex Tribick from the Spelthorne Business Forum in Surrey said the local currency had "changed from the pound to the sandbag".

Earlier, Prime Minister David Cameron said the government would "fight at every front to help people" hit by floods.

He said money would be no object in a "massive national effort", saying: "I want people to know that the government absolutely stands behind this relief effort."

In other developments:

  • About 2,200 armed forces personnel - regulars and reserves - are helping the flood relief effort and a further 3,000 are on standby to respond within two hours, according to Maj Gen Patrick Sanders, assistant chief of defence staff
  • Flood defences in Gloucester are succeeding in holding back the water, according to the Environment Agency
  • Council staff in Hampshire have been moved from their "normal day jobs" to help the flood relief effort
  • Buckingham Palace has said the Queen is supporting farmers affected by the flooding on the Somerset Levels by contributing feed and bedding from the royal farms at Windsor
  • The prime minister said UK businesses were offering "free help" to those affected by the flooding
  • Major supermarkets are providing supplies such as waders, food parcels, batteries and torches
  • Police have appealed to drivers across Northern Ireland to take extra care as rain and snow disrupt travel
  • The AA has urged drivers to try to travel only during daylight

The BBC's Duncan Kennedy: 'Streets are awash with sewage in Egham, Surrey'

Analysis

Another day, another storm in the South West.

Yet again heavy rain and high winds have been sweeping across Devon and Cornwall, on a relentless track taking more of the same up the country.

With snow too on Dartmoor and Exmoor, there wasn't much to tempt anyone to throw back the duvet and head out.

On Plymouth Hoe there were very few people braving the elements. Not even the hardiest of dog walkers seemed to want to venture out - just the lone runner, jogging in squidgy trainers, who managed to summon up the ghost of a smile from beneath a rain-soaked bobble hat.

This shoreline route was a favourite, he said. But today, with not much to see but the grey, angry waves through a curtain of rain, he wondered if really bed would've been the better option.

An amber warning for rain in the South West has now expired, but an amber warning for wind and yellow warnings for rain, wind and snow have been issued, covering much of the UK in the coming hours.

Gusts could reach up to 85mph, while more snow is expected on high ground in Wales, northern England, Northern Ireland and Scotland.

The Energy Networks Association said electricity had been restored to 572,291 properties across the UK since Wednesday's storms, but 16,092 homes, mostly in north Wales, remained cut off.

Severn warning

Some parts of the Somerset Levels have been flooded for several weeks, while areas near the Thames in Berkshire and Surrey have seen major flooding in recent days.

As well as the 24 severe flood warnings, the Environment Agency has issued more than 400 less serious flood warnings and alerts, mostly in southern England and the Midlands.

A man carries a sandbag on his shoulder through a flooded garden In Wraysbury, Berkshire, sandbags are being piled up to protect homes from flood water
Firefighters and soldiers pile sandbags at the door of a home which is surrounded by flood water Soldiers and firefighters are among those helping protect properties in Moorland, Somerset

In addition to the cancellation of all trains in Cornwall, there is widespread disruption on UK railways and Network Rail is advising customers to check before travelling.

David Cameron: "We are in the middle of very difficult times"

Some roads are closed because of flooding. See BBC Travel News for more.

Tornado role

Weather information

Firefighters drive in a special vehicle through flooding in Wraysbury, Berkshire

Meanwhile, a Royal Air Force (RAF) Tornado jet has captured detailed aerial pictures of areas affected by the floods.

High-resolution imagery captured from the aircraft, deployed from RAF Marham, in Norfolk, will help in the planning of relief operations.

Defence Secretary Philip Hammond said: "This Tornado-borne surveillance capability is very much proven in a combat role in Afghanistan but its versatility is underlined by its use today, here at home, to support ongoing flood relief efforts."

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