image captionHomes near Lymm in Cheshire were among those flooded
People have been evacuated from their homes overnight amid widespread flooding across England and Wales caused by Storm Christoph.
The prime minister warned of “more to come” with further heavy rain expected next week.
People have been told Covid rules let them leave their homes in an emergency.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson visited Didsbury on Thursday morning to see the flood response, as the severe flood warning was stood down and people evacuated earlier were allowed to return.
Mr Johnson said: “There will be more to come, there will be further rain next week, so it is vital that people who are in potentially affected areas follow the advice.”
He said flooding had a “huge psychological, emotional and financial cost” for people and said the government was investing £5.2 billion in flood defences over six years.
Heavy rainfall saw multiple major incidents and flood alerts declared across England and Wales.
Many rivers are at “dangerously high levels”, the Environment Agency said.
Pumps and sandbags had to be brought in to protect supplies of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine being held in a warehouse in Wrexham, north-east Wales, which was threatened by floods.
image captionA council worker in Didsbury, Manchester checks a bridge over the River Mersey for overnight damage
image captionSnow has also been falling in East Didsbury
A resident of Didsbury, Fari Iravani, told BBC News his family has been told to evacuate but “during corona where do you evacuate to? You don’t want to impose yourself on other people”.
He added: “We are trying to hold on as long as we can, and hopefully it will pass… If there is a continuation of the rain and the storm, that’s going to be a problem.”
Nelson Vasconcelos, 37, said he could not leave his home in Didsbury with his two small children because he has no family nearby. “We spent all night moving things to the second floor and trying to keep the kids safe,” he said.
Lee Rawlinson, of the Environment Agency, said that flood basins on the River Mersey at Didsbury had protected properties in the area overnight.
“The top of the river came within centimetres of the top of the river bank but our defences there have served their purpose and kept those properties dry. But it was very close,” he told BBC Breakfast.
In other developments:
‘I’ve never seen it like this’ – at the scene
by Tom Mullen, BBC News
There have been flood warnings in Didsbury before, of course, but nothing on this scale in recent memory.
Certainly nothing that would see emergency services declare a major incident and evacuate more than 2,000 homes in and around this area of south Manchester.
But on Wednesday night the River Mersey rose and plunged thousands of residents into new depths of stress and confusion, coming just centimetres from breaching flood defences.
And while the defences worked as they should – preventing homes from being deluged – the alert caused widespread bewilderment as residents now accustomed to stay-at-home messaging were suddenly ordered to leave.
As the night wore on the driving rain turned to thick snow, coating the streets in white and adding an even more surreal backdrop to the drama.
Life-long Didsbury resident Terry Sheldon lives in the house he was born in 69 years ago, in Darley Avenue, just metres from the river.
“The whole thing has been staggering,” he said. “I’ve never seen it like this here in my lifetime.”
Earlier on Wednesday evening, the force was called to help some residents in Ruthin who were being told to leave their homes, but they warned resources were being stretched by people who did not live locally driving to witness the floods.
image captionDriving conditions are also poor in some parts, with major roads closed
image captionSchool playing fields in Didsbury, Manchester, were submerged by the River Mersey’s floodwaters
image captionA man walks his dog after heavy snow fell in Allenheads, Northumberland
Speaking after a meeting of the government’s emergency committee Cobra on Wednesday, Boris Johnson urged people not to stay in their homes if they were told to evacuate.
“If you are told to leave your home then you should do so”, he said.
He also said steps were being taken to ensure the transport and energy networks were prepared so that electricity outages would not be “severe” and that there were sufficient supplies of sandbags.
The situation in Manchester was of particular concern, he said.
“We want to make sure that we are totally prepared in every part of the UK for flooding, because it is coming on top of the stress people are already under fighting Covid,” he added.
image captionSandbags were distributed as Storm Christoph rolled in
Labour’s shadow floods minister Stephanie Peacock said the government’s response to the floods had been “slow and uncoordinated”.
“We must ensure councils are supported to protect people, businesses, and local communities, and that all of the necessary precautions are also in place to protect those fighting the floods in light of the Covid-19 pandemic.”
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