It is "heartbreaking" to see what has happened in flood-hit communities across northern England, Environment Agency chief executive Sir James Bevan has told MPs.
The agency boss told the parliamentary Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee that the situation was gradually improving across Lancashire, Cumbria and Yorkshire, which have been hit by a series of devastating floods in the past month.
But he said the agency was watching the weather very carefully, as more rain falling on already saturated ground could cause further flooding, and staff were focusing on repairing damaged flood defences and helping communities rebuild.
"It's heartbreaking to see what has happened to these communities, to people's homes, communities, businesses, daily lives," he said.
"It's not just damage to businesses, it's damage to people, to the economy."
He said it was inspiring to see how communities were dealing with the floods and paid tribute to the spirit of Environment Agency staff for their work over the past month.
He added: "We face a very big challenge now in an era of more extreme weather, and the way to deal with the challenges is to deal with them together."