Flood-hit areas braced for more rain and galeforce winds

Flood-ravaged areas of northern England are bracing themselves for further damage as Storm Frank batters the British Isles with torrential rain and galeforce winds.

Areas of Cumbria and Yorkshire which took a hammering from Storm Eve are on high alert as the latest weather front sweeps in overnight.

The Environment Agency (EA) warned of the potential for further significant flooding especially in Cumbria, while floods minister Rory Stewart said a potentially "very bad situation" lay ahead.

In many areas the ground is still saturated from previous downpours and river levels remain at record highs.

Flood waters are receding but across the north of England more than 6,700 homes have flooded in the past week.

Part of the ancient bridge in the centre of Tadcaster, North Yorkshire, on Tuesday collapsed into the River Wharf.

The road was closed due to fears over the structural safety of the bridge but a small crowd gathered on Tuesday evening as stone could be heard falling into the water and creaking noises could be heard. Just before 5pm a huge chunk of the bridge fell into the water.

People watching ran as a wave headed towards the bank and a strong smell of gas came from pipes left visible in the gaping hole.

Elland Bridge, between Huddersfield and Halifax in West Yorkshire, has also been closed after the carriageway crumbled and collapsed after the floods.

Police also urged people in Kendal, Cumbria, to get out early and while it is still calm to do their shopping before bad weather hits again.

As anxious residents and businesses brace themselves for a fresh onslaught Sir Philip Dilley, the head of the EA, is returning to Britain from a family holiday in Barbados.

Sir Philip, who has faced criticism for his absence, is expected back in the next 24 hours. It is believed that a visit to the flood-hit region will be an early priority.

Craig Woolhouse, the EA's director of incident management, said: "The weather continues to be hugely challenging, with more rain threatening to cause further flooding in Cumbria and Yorkshire on Wednesday and through to Friday.

"We urge communities and visitors, particularly in Cumbria to prepare and not to walk or drive through flood water."

There are currently three severe flood warnings, 47 flood warnings and 81 flood alerts in place across England and Wales.

Scotland is also bracing itself with Met Office amber "be prepared" warnings issued for Wednesday in all mainland regions outside the Highlands.

A red weather warning has been issued for the Isle of Man overnight, with up to 100mm (four inches) of rain expected on high ground.

Large parts of Ireland are also braced for another winter battering weeks after Storm Desmond caused serious flooding in many areas of the island.

York's Foss barrier is now up and running, the EA said, after soldiers were drafted in to help with repairs. Emergency work was needed to the defence system, which helps drain water more quickly from the River Foss, after high river levels flooded the pump room and hit the power system.

An army Chinook helicopter was used to drop portable power generators onto the barrier's roof on Monday.

The EA's's decision to open the barrier sent flood water coursing through the city streets and left many property owners wondering whether their buildings were put at risk to save others.

The EA said it took this "difficult decision" in "a rapidly moving situation" to reduce flood risk to the residents of York. A spokesman said: "Had the barrier remained closed, and without the pumps running, the flooding would have been more widespread and many more homes would have flooded. The properties that flooded as a result of the opening of the barrier would have flooded had the barrier remained closed."

Mr Stewart told BBC Radio 4's Today programme that he was "very concerned" by the weather forecast for the coming days, saying: "As you say, there's another front coming in, there could be more flooding again so we really need emergency services, voluntary groups, mountain rescue to rest to be ready for what could be a very bad situation Wednesday, Thursday."

The Coastguard on Tuesday warned people to fight the temptation to visit coastal areas to take storm selfies.

It said that weather warnings for ships are currently in place for coastal areas from Aberdeen to Shetland and from Stornoway in the Outer Hebrides down through Belfast, Holyhead on Anglesey, Milford Haven and Falmouth in Cornwall.

Commander Mark Rodaway said: "We've all seen the dramatic pictures of flooding inland and seen from previous years, some equally dramatic images from coastal storms.

"Do not be tempted to go out and take those photographs yourself. No photograph or selfie is worth risking your life for."

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