Emergency flood plans in place as torrential rain batters Britain

Emergency plans have been put in place in two towns in Cumbria where hundreds of homes are threatened with flooding as torrential rain continues to batter northern England and southern Scotland.

Up to 1,000 properties are thought to be under threat in Kendal and around 600 in Egremont after river levels rose throughout Saturday.

The Environment Agency has issued 12 severe flood warnings for areas in and around the two Cumbrian towns which are on opposite sides of the Lake District.

This is the agency's highest level of alert and indicates a "possible danger to life".

The moves follows the Met Office's amber warning over severe weather for north-west Wales and parts of north-west England as more than a month's rain was expected to fall in these areas from Saturday evening through today.

An agency spokesman said the severe warning means that residents are urged to "take immediate action and prepare for property flooding".

Seven of the severe warnings have been issued for Egremont and five for Kendal. There are also 13 flood warnings in force across England and Wales, along with 122 flood alerts.

In Kendal, South Lakeland District Council said it has advised people in Kendal living in some areas close to the River Kent that they may have to evacuate their homes as river levels rise further overnight.

The council set up a reception centre at Kendal Town Hall for anyone who has nowhere else to go and said military personnel could be used to help with flood defence.

In Egremont, similar arrangements for evacuated residents were made at West Lakes Academy

A particularly heavy band of rain has been slowly working its way north across Wales and into north-west England.

Forecasters have warned it will bring an extremely high level of rain on high ground - up to 7.9in (200mm) - but flooding is likely as it follows a week of bad weather which has left ground saturated.

The spokesman warned anyone planning to travel in these areas to check the flood risk for their journey before they set out and not to attempt to drive through flood water.

Craig Woolhouse, Environment Agency director of incident management, said: "Heavy rain is falling on already saturated ground causing rivers to rise and bringing a risk of flooding across the North West.

"We urge people to check the risk of flooding in their area, sign up for flood warnings and be prepared to take immediate action."

The agency said two 24ft-long pumps, capable of pumping 120,000 litres of floodwater per minute, have been dispatched to Cumbria from a depot in the south west of England.

This latest band of severe, wet weather to hit the UK comes in the wake of Storm Abigail which left more than 20,000 homes without power and schools closed in Shetland and the Western Isles as it swept across Britain.

The Highlands and Islands were worst hit by gusts of 84mph while the rest of the UK experienced thundery showers as a result of Britain's first named storm.

The bad weather has also had an adverse effect in Glasgow, where the city's annual Christmas lights switch-on event, which was due to take place over the weekend, has been cancelled.

Cumbria was hit by severe floods in November 2009. During those incidents, Pc Bill Barker, 44, died after the bridge he was standing on collapsed in Workington, a town about 13 miles north of Egremont.