Areas in Surrey left inundated after the River Thames flooded will lose fire stations and up to 40 rescue workers, firefighters have warned, after Surrey County Council's cabinet approved plans to close two stations.
Severe flood warnings, where there is a danger to life, remain in place along stretches of the River Thames and on the Somerset Levels.
Surrey Police declared a “major incident” as hundreds of people were evacuated from homes along the Thames after it overflowed in Surrey and Berkshire, with thousands more at risk as water levels are expected to rise even further today.
Richard Jones, Fire Brigades Union secretary for Surrey, said the service was already being stretched “to breaking point” and stressed that further cuts "could mean floods in future are even more dangerous and damaging".
The warning comes after Surrey County Council agreed last week to recommend closing Sunbury and Staines fire stations and replacing them with a single new station in the Spelthorne area under cost-cutting measures.
The FBU said the plans were approved despite 92 per cent of consultation respondents rejecting the proposal.
Mr Jones said the service was already battling against cuts to help people affected by flooding, highlighting that only two water pumps had been used on Monday morning out of a total 13 available because of a lack of crew.
“We don’t receive funding for covering flooding, and even with huge amounts of overtime paid out to beef up staff numbers, only two out of the 13 on-call pumps were available this morning due to understaffing", he said.
“Given how much we are struggling, firefighters on the ground are expressing serious doubts over the service’s ability to respond successfully to floods in the future.”
Five hundred roads have been flooded in the Surrey County Council area and 150 people, many of whom were motorists stranded in flood water, have been rescued.
The Met Office's Sarah Davies told a briefing that strong winds forecast for the middle of the week could add to the problems facing the country.
Some 20-40mm (0.75-1.5 inches) of rain is expected by Friday night across many southern and western areas.
Surrey County Council has been contacted for comment.