UK weather: Conditions set to deteriorate as storms, high tides and gale-force winds continue


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The Independent Online

Experts have warned weather conditions look set to deteriorate over the weekend as storms, high tides and gale-force winds continue to leave a trail of devastation around the UK.

Hundreds of homes from Cornwall to Scotland have been hit by flooding, with miles of coastline battered and roads and fields across the country left under water. Four severe flood warnings, meaning a danger to life, were in place this morning for Gloucestershire and Dorset, but these have now been removed. A further 103 flood warnings and 261 flood alerts remain in place.

More than 100 people have joined emergency services in a search for 18-year-old Harry Martin, who remains missing in Devon. He was last seen at 2pm on Thursday walking towards a coastal path after he left his home in Membland, Newton Ferres. .

Part of a sea wall in Devon collapsed during the storms, forcing workers to quickly try and repair the damage.

Residents in Chiswell and Portland in Weymouth, Dorset had to be evacuated ahead of high tide yesterday evening, while around 100 people living in Aberystwyth, Dyfed, were advised to move to higher ground, with many taking shelter in rest centres.

People across the UK, from Devon to Cumbria and Sussex, protected their homes with sand bags and flood gates as the waters rose around them.

The Met Office has issued yellow 'be aware' warnings across north east and west of England, Northern Ireland and Scotland.

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As the New Year storms continued, the government came under fire yesterday as an estimated 1,700 jobs to be axed at the EA, with 550 staff from the floods team to go, raising fears managing flood risks would be affected.

Environment Secretary Owen Paterson stressed front-line flood defences would be protected after the EA's chief executive Paul Leinster said risk maintenance would be "impacted" and work on flood warnings would "have to be resized".

But Mary Dhonau, chairwoman of the Flood Protection Association, said she was "absolutely appalled" at the job losses at the EA. She told BBC Breakfast that the jobs were necessary, adding: "In this climate, and flooding is such a regular occurrence, it really is a no-brainer."

High tides and large waves flooded streets in Looe in Cornwall and Salcombe and Kingsbridge in Devon, but the RNLI said it was not as bad as it had expected, according to the BBC.

Emergency services rescued four people stranded in a flooded farm in Llanbedr near Barmouth, north west Wales, the River Severn burst its banks in Gloucestershire and a pregnant woman was rescued after 30 properties were flooded in Cardigan, mid-Wales.

Two people have already died in the storms. A 27-year-old man from Surrey was found on Porthleven Sands beach in Cornwall after he was swept out to sea on New Year's Eve night, and a woman died after being rescued from the sea in Croyde Bay, north Devon.

Officials around the country have pleaded with people to keep away as dozens put their life at risk by going coastal areas to watch as the storm brought waves up to 40ft high crashing on to land.

A man and child were almost swept away by a huge wave at Mullion Cove in Cornwall as they peered over the sea wall to watch the raging sea, and elsewhere in Cornwall vehicles driving on a coastal road were swamped and almost washed away by a tidal surge.

Mark Pilcher, from the EA, said: "I know people like to go out and look at the drama of the waves but please, keep away from this water."

Additional reporting by Press Association