Managing flood risks across Britain could be effected by government budget cuts, the head of the Environment Agency (EA) has warned as strong winds and heavy rain battered the United Kingdom.
As the latest bout of extreme weather continues across the country, the EA's chief executive, Paul Leinster, warned that Government cuts will "impact" upon how the organisation deals with flooding after it was announced approximately 15 per cent of its workforce would be axed in bid to save money.
The cuts come as part of major restructuring and could see up to 1,500 jobs cut by next October. It is not yet known how many of these jobs will be flood related roles.
Mr Leinster told the environmental policy magazine ENDS: "Flood risk maintenance will be [further] impacted. All of our work on mapping and modelling and new developments in things like flood warning will also have to be resized. And we're looking at a proportionate reduction in the number of people in flood risk management."
Exceptional weather conditions combined with high tides led to 16 of the most serious severe flood warnings, where there is a "danger to life", being issued across the South West, Gloucestershire and Wales at 10am while Scotland and Northern Ireland are also on flood alert.
In Pictures: 2014 Winter floods
In Pictures: 2014 Winter floods
1/60 Floods in Surrey
Thorpe Park in Surrey sits in flood water
2/60 Floods in Surrey
Flood water at Walton-on-Thames, Surrey
3/60 Floods in Surrey
Flood water surrounds the M3 motorway near to Chertsey, Surrey, as Royal Engineers were now being tasked to carry out a high-speed assessment of damage to the UK's flood defence infrastructure
4/60 Floods in Chertsey
Tom Poulter surveys the damage in his flooded garden which backs on to the Thames in Chertsey
5/60 Floods in Chertsey
Tom Poulter wades across his flooded garden to his house in Chertsey
6/60 Floods in Chertsey
Laleham Reach resident of 20 years Tom Poulter wades across his flooded garden to his house in Chertsey
7/60 Floods in Chertsey
Carol Murdoch assesses the damage to her flooded shed in Chertsey
8/60 Floods in Chertsey
Laleham Reach resident Steve Rastall returns home with supplies of shopping and logs for the fire in Chertsey
9/60 Floods in Hurley
A woman uses a dinghy to transport her children from their property, which is situated adjacent to the river Thames and surrounded by flood water in Hurley
10/60 Floods in Hurley
The pavilion of Hurley Cricket Club, which is situated near to the river Thames, is surrounded by flood water in Hurley
11/60 Floods in Staines-Upon-Thames
Flood water surrounds housing in Staines-Upon-Thames, England
12/60 Floods in Wargrave
A large house near the River Thames is surrounded by flood water in Wargrave
13/60 Floods in Worcester
Floodwater in the town of Worcester in western England
14/60 Floods in Wraysbury
Nigel Gray leaves his home in a rowing boat after the river Thames flooded the village of Wraysbury
15/60 Floods in Wraysbury
The front gate to a house is seen surrounded by water after the river Thames flooded the village of Wraysbury
16/60 Floods in Wraysbury
A resident wearing homemade waders carries a dog through floodwater as residents begin to evacuate homes in Wraysbury
17/60 Floods in Datchet
Residents carry sandbags through flood water to protect their homes as flood water continues to rise after the river Thames burst it's banks in Datchet
18/60 Floods in Datchet
Locals look at flooded railway lines after river Thames burst it's banks in Datchet
19/60 Floods in Datchet
A man brings a family member home on a boat after flood water continues to rise after the river Thames burst it's banks in Datchet
20/60 Floods in Datchet
A youth cycles through flood water after the river Thames burst it's banks on February in Datchet
21/60 Floods in Somerset
Nigel Farage wades in water as he visits a flooded property at Burrowbridge on the Somerset Levels near Bridgwater
22/60 Floods in Moorlands
A general view of an owners home that has been affected by flooding in Moorlands
23/60 Floods in Burrowbridge
Flood waters engulf a house with a wall of sandbags around it in Burrowbridge
24/60 Floods in Somerset
A car sits in flood water on a flooded property at Burrowbridge on the Somerset Levels near Bridgwater
25/60 Floods in Burrowbridge
Devon and Somerset Fire and rescue service evacuate two women and two cats in baskets through flood waters in Burrowbridge
26/60 Floods in Moorland
A graveyard is seen underwater in the village of Moorland
27/60 Floods in Moorland
A graveyard is seen underwater in the village of Moorland
28/60 Flooding near Bury
A train heads to Pulborough over the Arun flood plain near Bury, England
29/60 Flooding in Twickenham
A car is submerged in flood water from the River Thames in Twickenham, south London
30/60 Flooding in Twickenham
Flood water from the River Thames covers roads in Twickenham, south London
31/60 Flooding Bristol
A cyclist struggles through flood water in Bristol
32/60 Flooding in Bristol
River defence barriers are put in place in Bristol after flooding from the River Avon
33/60 Floods in Somerset
A car drives through flood water on the Somerset Levels near Langport in Somerset
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Flood water collects in an allotment site near Langport in Somerset
35/60 Floods in Somerset
Flooded fields surround the River Tone that has burst its banks viewed from Windmill Hill, in Stoke-St-Gregory near Langport in Somerset
36/60 Floods in Somerset
Trees are reflected in flood waters on the Somerset Levels near Langport in Somerset
37/60 Floods in Somerset
Farmer Roger Forgan uses a boat to cross farm land in front of his flooded farm which has been cut off by flood waters at Muchelney near Langport in Somerset
38/60 Floods in Somerset
A man walks beside the River Tone seen from Windmill Hill, Somerset, as flooding persists on the levels
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Flooded fields around the River Tone seen from Windmill Hill, Somerset
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An electricity survey helicopter flies over flooded farmland surrounding Burrowbridge in Somerset
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Flooded farmland surrounding Burrowbridge in Somerset
42/60 Floods in East Sussex
Anne Bourmer wades through flood water outside her home in Hooe, East Sussex, as more heavy rain sweeps across the country
43/60 Floods in Somerset
Flood water is pumped into the River Parrott by the Environment Agency in Moorland in Somerset
44/60 Floods in Somerset
A flood sign is seen in flood waters surrounding farm buildings in Somerset
45/60 Floods in Somerset
Debris washed up by flood water is seen at James Winslade's farm in Moorland in Somerset
46/60 Floods in Somerset
Farmer James Winslade stands in front of bales of animal feed as he surveys some of his 790 acres of flooded land at his farm in Moorland in Somerset, England
47/60 Floods in Somerset
Flood water surrounds a house in the village of Thorney in Somerset
48/60 Floods in Somerset
A car is seen submerged on the side of a flooded road leading into the cut-off village of Muchelney in Somerset. A local council declared a major incident on the flood-hit Somerset Levels where some villages like Muchelney have been cut off for weeks by flooding that has submerged roads and thousands of acres of farmland in the area of southwestern England
49/60 Floods in Somerset
A policeman on a boat looks at a car submerged on the side of a flooded road leading into the cut-off village of Muchelney in Somerset
50/60 Floods in Somerset
The village of Muchelney is seen beyond flood water in Somerset
51/60 Floods in Somerset
Residents disembark a boat after being transported from the cut-off village of Muchelney in Somerset on 27 January. A new plan to deal with a flood-hit area of south-west England will be drawn up within six weeks, Environment Secretary Owen Paterson announced as he was confronted by angry residents
52/60 Floods in Somerset
Pipes pump flood water into a river in Burrow Bridge, flood-hit Somerset on 27 January. A local council last week declared a major incident on the flooded Somerset Levels where some villages have been cut off for weeks by water that has submerged roads and thousands of acres of farmland
53/60 Floods in Somerset
Cattle feed in a barn in front of a flooded farm yard in the village of Thorney along the road to Muchelney on 24 January
54/60 Floods in Somerset
Workers from Pontoonworks build a pontoon along the road leading to the village of Muchelney to help villagers board a boat which has been used for transport along flooded roads on 24 January
55/60 Floods in Kent
Resident Jeff Hopcroft looks out from his flooded house on January 2, 2014 in Yalding, England
56/60 Floods in Kent
A resident measures the level of flood water outside his home in Yalding
57/60 Floods in Kent
A couple in a canoe travel across the flood water near Yalding
58/60 Floods in Surrey
Flood water from the River Mole rises after recent heavy rain in Leatherhead, England
59/60 Floods in Kent
A resident walks through the Little Venice Caravan Park in Yalding, Kent, as flood waters return to the site after recent bad weather
60/60 Flooding in Kent
Residents Ian Peacock and Caroline Hine leave the Little Venice Caravan Park in a boat after the heavy rains brought back the floods in the area
But Prime Minister David Cameron insisted the Government was doing everything possible to assist households hit by flooding as ministers and officials prepared to hold another meeting of the Government's emergencies committee Cobra today.
He tweeted: "I'm ensuring that all is being done to help with the floods. There'll be a Cobra meeting shortly and regular updates from EnvAgency."
The GMB union has called on the Government to stop the overall job cuts programme at the agency, which will see staff number reduced from 11,250 to 9,700.
GMB national officer Justin Bowden said: "Since November the UK has been battered by storms and these staffs are working flat out to protect citizens across the nation.
"The public need to know that job losses on this scale will impact specifically directly on flood risk management, on flood defence operations teams managing flood defences and carrying out river maintenance to enables flows to be conveyed away, enhancing the river's ecology and supporting fish stocks.
Homes in Newport, south Wales, were evacuated last night because of the risk of flooding as Wales prepared for the highest tides in 17 years. Residents at the Lighthouse Park Estate were taken to a nearby leisure centre as a precaution, and coastguards have been warned of a storm bringing 70mph winds.
People living in Ilfracombe, Devon, were joined by emergency services during the night as they gathered sand from beaches to build flood defences.
At 10am the number of flood warnings - where immediate action is required - issued by the EA across England and Wales stood at 193 while there were 231 flood alerts.
The storms have already claimed at least two lives. The body of a 27-year-old man from Surrey was found on Porthleven Sands beach in Cornwall. He had been swept out to sea on New Year's Eve night, having gone for a paddle with friends at nearby Loe Bar.
In a second tragedy on Tuesday, a woman died after being swept out to sea at the popular beauty spot Croyde Bay in north Devon. The woman, who was believed to be on holiday with her family, was rescued from the sea and airlifted to hospital before being confirmed dead by doctors.
Elsewhere, in Dorset a search was carried out for a man who is believed to have fallen into the River Stour, near Iford Bridge in Christchurch.
In Scotland heavy rain and gusts of up to 60mph could sweep across the country today, bringing further disruption after days of wet weather.
High tides and a storm surge have increased the risk of flooding in the Firth of Clyde, according to the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (Sepa).
A tidal surge is expected around lunchtime, particularly around the Firth of Clyde, Solway Firth and Ayrshire, the Scottish Government said.
Sepa has issued a flood alert for west central Scotland, warning that high water during early afternoon will be "exceptionally high" with large waves likely.
It has also issued eight flood alerts and 17 flood warnings for other parts of Scotland.
The Met Office has issued yellow "be aware" warnings of heavy rains and strong winds for the Highlands and Western Isles, Strathclyde, Central, Tayside, Fife, south-west Scotland and Lothian and Borders.
In Northern Ireland, police have warned that the docks area close to Belfast city centre could flood in the tidal surge, but have expressed hope feared serious flooding in the east of the city may now be prevented.
Officers released the latest update on the flood threat as ministers from the Stormont Executive convened an emergency meeting to discuss the ongoing multi-agency response.
Much of the effort to reinforce water defence is being focused in the docks area close to the city centre, with a number of roads set to be closed to traffic as temporary sandbag walls are built.
Last night residents of Sydenham in east Belfast were told to pack a bag and prepare for potential of evacuation. Sandbags were distributed to the public through the night while the authorities built up river defences.
But this morning the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) said more positive meteorological reports, combined with the defence work undertaken, suggested the densely-packed neighbourhood may avoid "serious flooding".
Additional reporting by Press AssociationReuse content