LONDON (Reuters) - Warnings were issued across Scotland, northern England and Wales on Thursday as officials warned that heavy downpours could cause serious flooding and forecasters said more rain was on its way.
Six serious flood warnings — where there is extreme danger to life and property — have been put in place in Cumbria and another six in southern Scotland.
The Environment Agency put out lesser warnings for 24 other locations, mostly in northwest England, while the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) issued 15.
“Much of the ground in Cumbria is totally saturated and persistent heavy rain combined with full rivers means the risk of flooding is extremely high,” said Robert Runcie, Environment Agency Director of Flood and Coastal Risk.
“Environment Agency teams are out on the ground monitoring river levels, checking flood defences and clearing drains and culverts of debris.”
The agency said the towns of Cockermouth, Kendal and Keswick in Cumbria were the greatest concern while temporary defence measures had been erected in Carlisle.
Cumbrian Police said 220 mm of rain had fallen in the last 18 hours with another 100 to 150 mm forecast overnight.
The force said it had received 90 calls for assistance while the fire brigade had dealt with 150 incidents. Many major roads have also been closed.
“Pedestrians in areas where there are floods, such as Cockermouth, Keswick, Penrith and Kendal, are being urged not to attempt to walk through flood waters,” said Chief Superintendent Kevin McGilloway.
“We are asking people not to travel unless it is absolutely necessary.”
Reception centres have been set up to provide shelter for those forced from their homes.
“This spell of wet and windy weather comes hot on the heels of the storm last weekend,” said Met Office Chief Forecaster, Bob Wilderspin.
“The rain will fall on areas that are already saturated and we are working closely with agencies, local authorities and emergency services to ensure they are prepared.”
The Met Office said very heavy rain was expected to fall in Cumbria, in western Scotland and north Wales. Gales are also expected, with gusts of up to 70 mph, which could bring coastal flooding to Cumbria and Dumfries and Galloway.
Reporting by Michael Holden; Editing by Steve Addison and Stefano Ambrogi