Further flooding fears for new year

Heavy rain could bring more floods at the start of 2014, the Environment Agency (EA) has warned.

Thousands of people across the UK are still recovering after storms last week caused widespread misery, with power cuts and flooding ruining Christmas for scores of families.

Forecasters say there is more bad weather to come, with the Met Office issuing a severe weather warning for rain on New Year's Day, affecting southern England and western Scotland.

An EA spokeswoman said: "On New Year's Day, heavy rain is expected which could cause flooding to communities in the south east and south west of England.

"There is a heightened flood risk for parts of south east, southern and south west England and Cumbria."

Counties at increased risk of flooding are Cornwall, Devon, Somerset, Dorset, Wiltshire, Hampshire, Gloucestershire, Berkshire, Sussex, Surrey, Kent and Cumbria.

The EA has eight flood warnings in place in England and Wales, meaning flooding is expected, and 112 flood alerts, where flooding is possible.

The Met Office has said that as much as 40mm (1.6in) of rain could fall on higher ground or coastal areas, and there are likely to be gales of 50-60mph.

The latest bad weather is set to push in from the Atlantic, crossing the UK from west to east. With the ground already saturated, some minor flooding is likely, the Met Office said.

Councils are preparing for the worst, with emergency accommodation lined up in case people are forced to leave their homes, and the Local Government Association is urging people to look on council websites to keep updated with information.

The EA spokeswoman said: "The Environment Agency is urging communities to prepare in advance by signing up for free flood warnings and to take action if they receive one. A flood warning indicates that flooding is expected.

"Environment Agency teams have continued to work around the clock on the ground operating pumping stations, issuing flood warnings and checking that flood banks, walls and barriers are working effectively.

"Advice on what to do before, during and after flooding is available on the Environment Agency website or by calling Floodline on 0845 9881188.

"People travelling this week are also reminded to check the latest flood updates ahead of making journeys and should not drive through dangerous floodwater.

"To date, there have been 1,300 properties flooded across England. Environment Agency flood defences have protected more than 80,000 properties from flooding."

Seven people were airlifted to safety on Monday after heavy rain caused flooding in Scotland.

The group, which included four children, were rescued from a farmhouse near Closeburn in Thornhill, Dumfries and Galloway, by a Royal Navy helicopter after rain forced families to be evacuated from dozens of homes and caused major road disruption.

Around 40 houses in Kirkconnel, Dumfries and Galloway, were evacuated, as were 25 in Dumfries after the River Nith burst its banks, flooding the Whitesands area.

The heavy rain also caused problems on the roads, with the A76 at Kirkconnel closed and flooding on the A74 and A75, and a landslide on the A7 just south of Langholm closed the road for a short while.

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