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Cumbrian towns warned over severe flooding

Two towns in Cumbria have been warned to take immediate action and prepare for flooding as a band of torrential rain sweeps across the UK.

The Environment Agency has issued 11 severe flood warnings for areas in and around the towns of Egremont and Kendal, on opposite sides of the Lake District.

This is the agency's highest level of alert and indicates a "possible danger to life".

The moves follows the Met Office's amber warning over severe weather for north-west Wales and parts of north-west England as more than a month's rain is expected to fall in these areas from Saturday evening through Sunday.

An agency spokesman said the severe warning means that residents are urged to "take immediate action and prepare for property flooding".

Six of the severe warnings have been issued for Egremont and five for Kendal. There are also five flood warnings in force along with 107 flood alerts.

A particularly heavy band of rain has been slowly working its way north across Wales and into north-west England.

Forecasters have warned it will bring an extremely high level of rain on high ground - up to 7.9in (200mm) - but flooding is likely as it follows a week of bad weather which has left ground saturated.

The spokesman said Environment Agency teams are out maintaining flood defences, preparing temporary barriers, deploying sandbags along riverbanks, clearing river blockages, monitoring water levels and sending out warnings.

Additional Environment Agency staff from across the country have been deployed to provide extra support in affected areas, he said.

He warned anyone planning to travel in these areas to check the flood risk for their journey before they set out and not to attempt to drive through flood water.

Craig Woolhouse, Environment Agency director of incident management, said: "Heavy rain is falling on already saturated ground causing rivers to rise and bringing a risk of flooding across the North West. We urge people to check the risk of flooding in their area, sign up for flood warnings and be prepared to take immediate action.

"Our teams are working around the clock with communities at risk to prepare for flooding and maintain flood defences."

The agency said two 24-foot long pumps, capable of pumping 120,000 litres of flood water per minute, have been dispatched to Cumbria from a depot in the south west of England.

Met Office forecaster Nicola Willis said high ground is likely to be most affected with up to 7.9in (200mm) of rain expected over the weekend on already saturated ground.

Ms Willis said: "These areas have had a lot of rain already this week and they are already quite saturated.

"We are expecting the rain to be heavy and persistent, although the heaviest rain will not necessarily continue through the whole of the warning period."

Many areas covered by the Met Office warnings are likely to see 2.8-3.9in (70-100mm) of rain, while some more exposed parts of North Wales and north west England could see as much as 5.9-7.9in (150-200mm).

This latest band of severe, wet weather to hit the UK comes in the wake of Storm Abigail which left more than 20,000 homes without power and schools closed in Shetland and the Western Isles as it swept across Britain. The Highlands and Islands were worst hit by gusts of 84mph while the rest of the UK experienced thundery showers as a result of Britain's first named storm.

The bad weather has also had an adverse effect in Glasgow, where the city's annual Christmas lights switch-on event, which was due to take place over the weekend, has been cancelled.

Cumbria was hit by severe floods in November 2009. During those incidents, Pc Bill Barker, 44, died after the bridge he was standing on collapsed in Workington, a town about 13 miles north of Egremont.

South Lakeland District Council said it has advised people in Kendal living in some areas close to the River Kent that they may be advised to evacuate their homes as river levels rise.

The council said up to 1,000 properties could be at risk and it is setting up a reception centre at Kendal Town Hall for anyone who has nowhere else to go.

It said a multi-agency task force is currently working across Cumbria and military personnel may be deployed to install temporary flood defences to protect vital infrastructure.


From Belfast Telegraph