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UK floods: Water enters hundreds of homes, covers cars up to roof

British Prime Minister David Cameron visited the flood-hit historic city of York on Monday as cities, towns and villages across northern England battled to get back on their feet following devastating storms.

world Updated: Dec 28, 2015 20:01 IST
Members of the Mountain Rescue team stand over kneed deep in water outside a property, after floods, in Tower Street, York.
Members of the Mountain Rescue team stand over kneed deep in water outside a property, after floods, in Tower Street, York.(AP)

British Prime Minister David Cameron visited the flood-hit historic city of York on Monday as cities, towns and villages across northern England battled to get back on their feet following devastating storms.

Cameron met soldiers and volunteers helping with the aftermath of the flooding as he faced increasing pressure to take more action to prevent further chaos in future.

Around 500 properties were flooded in York, one of Britain’s top tourist destinations, on Sunday as two rivers burst their banks. Some residential streets became so inundated that cars were covered up to their roofs.

Soldiers helped pile sandbags up to protect properties and businesses while emergency services paddled around the streets in dinghies trying to find stranded residents.

A woman is taken to safety in a dinghy by members of the emergency services, after homes were affected by floodwaters in streets close to The River Foss after it burst it's banks in York. (AFP)

Flooding has also hit the northern cities of Leeds and Manchester in recent days, as well as a string of towns and villages in the region.

“Let’s have a look and see whether more needs to be done,” Cameron told Sky News when asked about his government’s response.

“After any one of these events, it’s right to sit down, look at what you’ve spent, what you’ve built, what you’re planning to spend, what you’re planning to build and work out is it in the right places, are we doing it in the right way, do we need to do more?”

Members of the emergency services search for residents affected by floodwaters in streets close to The River Foss, after it burst it's banks in York. (AFP)

The Environment Agency had 10 severe flood warnings in place Monday, signalling a “danger to life”, chiefly at points along major rivers in Yorkshire.

There were also over 150 flood warning or alerts in place in England and Wales, meaning flooding was either expected or possible.

Cameron sent in 200 more troops to help 300 already on the ground in northern England with tackling the effects of flooding Sunday. Another 1,000 are on standby in case the situation gets worse.

A submerged car is pictured on a residential road next to the River Foss after it burst it's banks in York, northern England. (AFP)

More rain is forecast later in the week, raising the prospect of further floods at a time when many people are still at home following Christmas celebrations.

The Met Office weather forecasting service has issued warnings of rain on Wednesday in northwest and northeast England plus Wales, Northern Ireland and parts of Scotland.

A flooded residential street next to the River Foss is pictured after it burst it's banks in York. (AFP)

‘Changing climate’

As the clear-up got under way, Cameron’s government was under pressure Monday over the quality of Britain’s flood defences.

The country has been hit by a series of serious floods including in Cumbria, northern England, earlier this month and in late 2013 and early 2014 in southwest and southeast England.

The Independent newspaper’s front page headline read: “The drowning of the north of England” while the Sun ran with “Blunder water”.

A "Santa Stop Here" sign is pictured in a window box on a house in a flooded residential street next to the River Foss after it burst it's banks in York. (AFP)

The Guardian said that “empty rhetoric and even the army cannot substitute for coherent policy on flood prevention”.

“Climate change and inadequate preparation... ensure that the floods will become a painfully regular future of British life,” it said in an editorial.

Ministers announced a review earlier this month following the floods in Cumbria which will look at whether homes have enough protection.

Men use a dinghy to rescue their possessions from mobile homes after the River Ouse bursts its banks, in York city center. (ap)

They say they are spending £2.3 billion (3.1 billion euros, $3.4 billion) over the next six years to provide better protection for 300,000 homes from flooding.

David Rooke, deputy chief executive of the Environment Agency government body, told BBC radio that a “complete rethink” was needed.

“I think it (the review) will lead to the conclusion that we will need to reassess all the defences right across the country to say what standard of protection have we now got based on current science and what standard of protection will be needed in the future in the face of this changing climate,” he added.

TOPSHOT - A resident dressed as the character Captain Jack Sparrow from Pirates of the Caribbean film series stands outside his flooded house after the adjacent River Foss burst it's banks in York. (AFP)

Accountancy firm PwC said it was too early to estimate losses arising from this month’s floods, but initial analysis showed that they could run as high as £1.3 billion.