Clear-up begins after flooding hits northern England

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Media caption,

The BBC's Nick Ravenscroft: "A month's worth of rain in a day"

Clean-up operations are under way after heavy rain caused flooding in towns and villages across northern England, forcing many people out of their homes.

Up to 500 properties were flooded in Lancashire and West Yorkshire, after a month's worth of rain fell in 24 hours.

Some homes in the Lancashire areas of Croston and Darwen were evacuated after nearby rivers burst their banks.

There are 21 flood warnings in place in England and Scotland has three, while forecasters warn of more rain.

The Environment Agency (EA) has warned people to stay away from fast-flowing, swollen rivers, and not to drive through flood water.

"We are keeping a close eye on the weather that is coming through tonight," said EA flood risk manager Pete Fox.

"We're worried about the areas that are already flooded, and Cumbria as well. Our focus now is helping the emergency services start the clear-up operations."

'British pluck'

The River Yarrow burst its banks in Croston, flooding more than 70 homes and leaving the village looking like "an island".

Jon Lilley, 32, landlord of the Wheatsheaf, said: "The water just kept coming closer and closer.

"We tried to wedge the doors as best we could but we lost the battle at about 2am and it came through the sandbags."

He said he and his staff were trying to pump the water out of the cellar and clean up the rest of the pub.

"My beer is floating. My plants have floated off down the road," he said.

Some residents criticised the authorities' planning and response to the deluge.

Richard Jones, 46, of Town Road, said: "We were expecting flooding throughout the day because of the torrential rain. It seems to me though that the Environment Agency weren't expecting it and certainly the local council weren't expecting it."

An EA spokeswoman said the council had been handing out sandbags to residents.

James Gartside, 42, also of Town Road, praised the spirit of the villagers who mucked in to help each other out, adding: "It was typical British pluck."

The EA said it worked alongside the emergency services through the night to clear debris, monitor river levels and operate flood defences at numerous locations.

Media caption,

Rory Wiggin at Hebden Bridge: "The engine cut out so I decided to abandon the car"

Flood warnings were issued to more than 7,000 properties, and more than 11,000 homes and businesses were protected by the defences, the agency said.

The EA's 21 flood warnings are across northern England and there are 64 less severe flood alerts covering the North East, North West, the South West and Wales. The Scottish Environment Protection Agency has three flood warnings in place.

In other news:

The Met Office has severe weather warnings in place for north-west and south-west England, Strathclyde, Highlands and Eilean Star, Grampian, south-west Scotland, Lothian Borders, Central, Tayside and Fife, Yorkshire and Humber and Northern Ireland.

Forecasters said rain had eased away in the north west England, but more is expected across parts of northern England and Scotland later.

Environment Secretary Caroline Spelman earlier described the flooding as "dreadful".

"The most important thing here is for the government to invest in flood defences. We have over £2bn to be spent on flood defences in the lifetime of this Parliament and it will better protect 150,000 properties," she told the BBC.

But Labour said the government was cutting more than £400m from flood defence spending over the next four years, and that people were finding it increasingly difficult to get insurance against flood damage.

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