Risk of more flooding over the next few days, warns Environment Agency

Figures showed some 1,600 properties had flooded since yesterday, while flood defences had protected more than 54,000 homes.

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The Independent Online

Swollen rivers are still at risk of flooding over the next few days, the Environment Agency has said, as icy temperatures take hold of the UK.

The Environment Agency (EA) warned that some rivers, including the Thames, Trent and Severn, remain at very high levels despite the improving weather.

It could take much longer for floodwaters to subside, as teams work around the clock to shore up defences and clear blockages from watercourses, it added.

Downpours across the country caused widespread devastation in towns and communities, but now the rain has made way for drier weather, the huge and costly clean-up operation can begin.

EA figures showed some 1,600 properties had flooded since yesterday, while flood defences had protected more than 54,000 homes.

Communities should still remain prepared for flooding, with 127 flood warnings and 137 flood alerts still in place across England and Wales, but more than 100 have been removed in the last 24 hours since the weather has improved.

In Whitby, North Yorkshire, preparations were being made to demolish five homes on Aelfleda Terrace because of fears they might collapse.

Work is expected to begin today, although it is understood the steep, tight location will present demolition experts with a number of problems

Torrential rain has led to the gardens and patios sliding down the steep slope below them and they are now 30ft lower than the 150-year-old terrace.

The landslip also saw a huge slab of rock and earth, about the size of a minibus, crash into another terrace of homes below.

North-east Scotland and Yorkshire, Lancashire and the Anglia regions endured more rain overnight, with more expected in north-east Scotland and east England today.

Gemma Plumb, a spokeswoman for MeteoGroup, the weather division of the Press Association, said: "Generally it will be quite dry today but there will be some localised heavy rain in north-east Scotland and east England.

"It will be very cold over the next few days but mainly dry, dropping to minus six in some areas overnight.

"There will be a risk of ice for some areas, particularly in Wales and south-west England where there has been a lot of heavy rain."

She added that there are hints of more heavy rain and snow moving across the UK from the west on Sunday night.

In Gloucestershire, fire and rescue crews worked with the RSPCA to ensure horses stranded in floodwater received desperately-needed food.

The horses at Severnside Farm, Walham, near Gloucester, had been isolated by the rising waters and farmers were unable to get food to them.

Police closed a stretch of the A40 at the Over Causeway to allow firefighters to lower bales of hay from the bridge to the farmland below.

In total, 10 bales were lowered and taken to the animals, which were nearby on dry land.

Rescue teams then worked to ferry members of the RSPCA and a vet to the horses, which were not accessible except over floodwater.

The animals, some of which had become dehydrated, were checked over and treated when necessary.

Gloucestershire's chief fire officer Jon Hall said: "Though the worst of the floods has now passed, our firefighters are out in the county every day, making sure that residents and animals are safe.

"In this case, our crews were on site for a number of hours to make sure that the horses were fed and safe. It was a fantastic effort and a good example of the very varied responses that the county council is providing to isolated communities at this time."

In Tewkesbury, the borough council is offering a free collection service for flood-damaged goods.

Jim Mason, lead member for clean and green environment at Tewkesbury Borough Council, said: "The effects of flooding can be devastating and we want to make life as easy as possible for our residents who have already had to deal with so much.

"We offered the same service following the floods in 2007 and residents found it useful.

"If you live in a flood-affected property and have items you wish to dispose of, then please do get in touch with us."

As well as the collection service, officers from the council will be making visits to residents living in affected properties to check they are safe, to offer a range of flood-related advice and to see if any further assistance is needed.

Since the severe weather, the council has provided more than 4,500 sandbags to help protect vulnerable properties, and trash screens - which collect and prevent the passage of waste - continue to be cleared by officers.

Gloucestershire County Council's gritting teams will be out again overnight as temperatures drop below freezing.

Forecasters are predicting temperatures to fall to minus 4C, which means tomorrow morning is likely to be frosty.

The council's 33-strong team of gritters started a run this afternoon and will be treating key routes around the county.

"They will also be going out again during the night ahead of tomorrow morning's rush-hour," a council spokeswoman said.

"Although the threat of flooding has subsided, there are still some roads closed because of the recent wet weather."