Battered Britain faces further flooding

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Weather-battered Britain faces more devastating flooding with defences unable to cope if further rain falls, the Environment Agency warned today.

Weather-battered Britain faces more devastating flooding with defences unable to cope if further rain falls, the Environment Agency warned today.

Chiel executive Ed Gallagher said many flood defences were already in danger of being breached.

He said: "We are beginning to get concerned about our flood defences, as they have taken a real battering. If we have another week or two of heavy rain we would see more serious flooding."

Long-range forecasters predict heavy rain will be a feature until at least Christmas.

Thirty nine severe flood warnings are now in place on more than 30 rivers.

Two million homes and commercial properties at risk on flood plains in Britain's worst flooding for more than 50 years.

The latest place to suffer is Burton-on-Trent in Staffordshire, parts of which may need to be evacuated this evening.

Raging waters are also beginning to threaten historic Hampton Court Palace in south-west London, where the River Thames was Òvery highÓ.

The worst hit areas of the country remain Kent, Sussex, the North East, Yorkshire and the Midlands.

Persistent heavy rain, surface water and rising river levels have continued to cause widespread flooding problems for thousands of residents and travellers across the north east of England.

At lunchtime, the Environment Agency said seven severe flood warnings were in place on five rivers, including the River Pont in Northumberland, and the River Wear in Co Durham.

In Ponteland, where Northumbria Police has its headquarters, around 100 homes were reported flooded after water from the River Pont deluged the village centre.

Fire crews in the county were also out in Blyth, Morpeth and Rothbury dealing with water from overflowing rivers.

It was a similar picture in Co Durham, and east Cleveland where 400 residents of Skinningrove were under threat from torrential flood waters.

Northumbria Police repeated appeals to motorists to only travel if absolutely essential.

Floods were causing major problems on the railways with the service between Newcastle and Carlisle cancelled due to flooding.

Services on the East Coast Main Line were also experiencing major disruption.

"Even though this is the worst flooding for 50 years only about 4,500 of those have been flooded, so this is by no means a catastrophe, but we can never totally prevent flooding."

Scotland, which bore the brunt of last night;s downpours, faces more rain tonight.

Roads were closed, train services were severely disrupted and some sheltered housing residents were evacuated as the rain which has caused major problems in many parts of Britain recently spread across the border.

Roads were closed in several areas of Edinburgh, the Lothians, Fife and the Borders, where police warned motorists only to make essential journeys.

A ScotRail spokesman said services in North Fife and between Edinburgh and Glasgow were severely disrupted.

Commuters travelling Edinburgh and Glasgow - a line which had just got back to normal following recent disruption caused by a landslide - saw services cut from four an hour to just two.

Weathermen say the north east of England will also be badly hit, with most of the country having outbreaks of rain.

Showers are predicted until Friday, and heavy rain on Saturday.

Mr Gallagher added: "The Agency is very stretched at the moment. We have had people working 24 hours a day for many days now and they are starting to feel the strain.

"We have been able to move people around the country from areas that are not so badly affected and have used staff who do not normally work on flood defences."

The Agency has 2,500 flood defence staff and has drafted in around 750 accountants, telephonists, water resource engineers and pollution control experts to help out.

But if the heavy rains lashing the country do not stop soon the flood defences could give way.

He added: "When we have looked at what needs to be done to strengthen the flood defences, I suspect we will go back to the Government and ask for even more money.

"We are expecting this type of weather to continue in the future and if it does we will have to rethink a number of things.

"We will have to spend more money on defences and warning systems. We will have to stop building on flood plains and look at different construction techniques for building houses.

"We will also have to look at different farming practices to stop silt getting into rivers.

"At the moment there are two million homes and commercial properties at risk on flood plains.

"Even though this is the worst flooding for 50 years only about 4,500 of those have been flooded, so this is by no means a catastrophe, but we can never totally prevent flooding."

He said homeowners who have experienced minor flooding could be back in their homes within a couple of months, but it could be eight to nine months for families whose homes have been seriously flooded, as polluted flood water will have got into the walls of their properties.

His clear-up prediction depended on their being no repeats of the recent floods.

He said: "The floods have come much earlier than we would expect.

"We normally expect this sort of weather in February, so there is likely to be more of this to come. We will just have to hope it is not so severe."

Long-range forecaster Piers Corbyn of Weather Action, predicted more severe weather until the New Year.

Mr Corbyn, who bases his forecasts on solar activity, said: "There will be many more problems in December between the 11th and 14th.

"We are sure there will be more heavy rainfall and storm strength winds. And in the second half of December there will be horrendous storms. These will hit Britain around Christmas Day.

"There will be thunderstorms, heavy rain, breaches of see defences on the south coast and it will continue after Christmas.

"The charts we are working with suggest the weather will probably be worse than we have experienced in the past few weeks.

"This is a severe weather warning. It will be as bad as we have seen and probably worse."

He also warned of continuing adverse conditions during November.

"We are expecting a continuation of the present bad weather spell around the 13th to 16th of November. And again between the 27th and 30th of November.

"But it will be nothing compared to what Britain faces between the 23rd and 26th of December.

"The temperatures may be mild, but we expect storm Force 11 winds coupled with heavy rainfall, the worst we've seen this year and much worse than was experienced last Christmas."

Mr Corbyn, whose forecasts are used by the energy, agricultural and retail industries to plot production levels of crops, claims to have predicted nine months ago three wet spells which brought the October floods and storms.

The managing director of Weather Action said: "There is a lot more to climate change than mankind. Man's influence is overrated.

"Adverse weather conditions are controlled by solar particles. These particles regulate world temperatures and world temperatures in term control the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

"The average winter rainfalls have increased in correlation with the number of sun spots and the amount of solar activity over the same period.

"If the Government wants to take a serious look at climate change then they need to look at solar activity."

It was not credible that the global warming lobby claimed all weather extremes as evidence of their theories.

He added: "If I can offer one piece of advice to the people of Britain it would be hang on to those sandbags and prepare for the worst. The storms at Christmas will hit power supplies and the other utilities."