24-hour rainfall record expected as flooding prompts major incident in Cumbria


The Government is expected to confirm a UK record in rainfall over 24 hours following the storm that submerged parts north of the country in floods this weekend.

Emergency services in the north of England remain stretched as they call on extra resources to cope with floods caused by Storm Desmond, declared a major incident in Cumbria, the worst affected county.

Fears are growing over the safety of an elderly man who police believe fell into the swollen River Kent in Kendal and they are waiting on an Underwater Search Team to assist them in the search. Motorists are being advised to avoid the area around Staveley Road.

In London, a 90-year-old man lost his life after he was believed to have been blown into the side of a moving bus by a gust of wind, near Finchley Central Tube station, a Scotland Yard spokesman said.

Following an emergency Government meeting, Environment Secretary Elizabeth Truss said that figures from a rain gauge in Honister, Cumbria, suggest a record amount of rain fell in the 24 hours between Friday and Saturday evenings. It measured 341mm, which is more than a month's worth of rainfall in just one day and more than the UK has ever experienced in such a short amount of time.

She confirmed that more than 2,000 homes and businesses in the county had been flooded and there is still a threat that the number could rise.

She said on Sunday: "There remains a risk of further flooding in some areas and the Environment Agency continues to warn communities in northern England to be prepared today and tomorrow. They have issued more flood warnings and alerts across the country. It is important people continue to heed the advice of the emergency services.

"We are delivering on our manifesto commitment to build 1,400 new flood defence schemes that will better protect 300,000 more homes. That's an extra £2.3 billion of capital investment to help our most at-risk communities."

Carlisle remains one of the most severely affected areas as water levels continued to rise past the expected peak time of 9.15am on Sunday.

Around 350 army personnel, two vehicles and a Chinook helicopter were made available from 2nd Battalion Duke of Lancaster's Regiment to assist with the warning and evacuating residents in streets were cars have been almost entirely submerged.

Power shortages are a serious problem in this area and Electricity North West is currently carrying out planned power outages to prevent 60,000 customers from losing power at once.

A spokesman for the company said: "We tried everything we could to protect Carlisle but unfortunately this is an unprecedented flooding event."

Clean water supplies are also an issue as United Utilities confirmed that a number of treatment works and water mains across Cumbria have been affected by the heavy rain, including Keswick, Borrowdale Valley, Langwathby, Lancaster and Carlisle.

Looking ahead into the week, Cumbria County Council have announced at least 24 school closures, details of which can be found on their website.

Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs minister Rory Stewart, who is also the Tory MP for Penrith and the Border, said flooding in his constituency has been "the worst that anybody's experienced" and acknowledged water had "overtopped" existing flood defences.

He told BBC Radio 4's The World This Weekend that, in the face of record rainfall in the area prompting a "very, very serious response" from the fire and rescue service, mountain rescue, the police and the army, people in the area had shown "incredible community spirit".

Major road closures are also still in place and there are disruptions across transport networks.