Heavy rains continue to cause more flooding in northern England, with several homes being evacuated in Yorkshire and Lancashire, and rivers overflowing in Manchester, Hebden Bridge and Leeds. Severe flood warnings, including those indicating a danger to life, have been issued.
The Prime Minister has promised to send more troops to “do whatever is needed” to help people in large swathes of northern England stricken by floods.
Thousands of people are being evacuated after “unprecedented” levels of rain have caused rivers to burst their banks and left homes under water in York, Leeds and Manchester.
The Government has vowed to review flood defences as the Army was mobilised this morning to help emergency services carry out mass evacuations.
David Cameron has this morning chaired a conference call of the Government’s emergency Cobra committee as ministers worked to tackle the problem.
He said: “I’ve just chaired a Cobra meeting on the unprecedented flooding. Huge thanks to the emergency services and military for doing so much.
“Also my sympathy for those affected at this time of year. More troops are being deployed as part of a plan to do whatever is needed.”
Mr Cameron told the BBC: “What has happened – the level of the rivers, plus the level of rainfall has created an unprecedented effect and so some very serious flooding. The Cobra call has been important because we’ve decided to deploy more military resources, more military personnel, to help.
“But let me say the emergency services have done a fantastic job and continue to do so, and they deserve the whole nation’s thanks. But of course, at this time of year, we all feel huge sympathy for those who have been flooded and have had to leave their homes.”
Details of further help from the military will become clear later today, Mr Cameron said.
He added: “As some areas of the country move from the emergency into the recovery phase, we’ll also make sure that the help we have given to Cumbria will be available to other parts of the country.”
Mr Cameron said that with the prevalence of such extreme weather events on the rise, investment in flood defences would continue.
He said: “Whenever these things happen, you should look at what you’ve spent, look at what you’ve built, look at what you’re planning to spend, look at what you’re planning to build, and ask whether it’s in the right places, whether it’s enough, whether we’re doing everything we can to try and help.
“The flood barriers have made a difference – both the permanent ones and the temporary ones – but it’s clear in some cases they’ve been over-topped, they’ve been overrun, and so of course we should look again at whether there’s more we should do.”
Residents have been evacuated from scores of homes in York, where large swathes of the city are under water after the Foss and Ouse rivers burst their banks.
During the night police visited 605 properties and evacuated 92 people from their homes, taking them to rest centres at a local school.
Soldiers were mobilised this morning to join emergency services and mountain rescue teams as they help people from their homes and bolster defences with sand bags, while more than 20 roads across the city were closed after being flooded.
Around 3,500 properties are thought to be at risk in the city, and rescue centres have been set up to help those affected.
Dozens of severe flood warnings remain in place in Yorkshire and the North East, and engineers are working to restore power to more than 7,500 homes in Greater Manchester and Lancashire that have been left without power.
The flooding has been caused by “unprecedented” heavy rain across northern England, causing every river in Lancashire to reach a higher level than they have ever been.
Environment Secretary Liz Truss said the priority for the Government at the moment was protecting lives and people’s homes and properties.
She also promised to review flood defences, which have once again been pushed to their limit.
Ms Truss told the BBC: “We are looking at schemes similar to what we put in place in Cumbria to make sure families and businesses are supported. We are looking at that at the moment.
“My priority is making sure we have a good response effort, that we give families, communities all the help they need to make sure that we protect lives and we protect people’s homes.
“It is right to say that flood defences have been overwhelmed, in Lancashire every single river was at a record high. In Yorkshire we have seen some rivers a metre higher than they have ever been before. Clearly, in the light of that, we will be reviewing our flood defences.”
Shadow environment secretary Kerry McCarthy said the Government should “spare no efforts” in supporting the relief work and act quickly to protect against future problems
She said: “However, it is increasingly clear that so-called ‘unprecedented’ weather events are here to stay. The Government must drop its complacency over the need for climate change adaptation.
“It must also invest in maintaining flood defences, rather than cutting them as they had planned, as well as look urgently at what else can be done to reduce flood risk in future.”