Flood Warnings Remain As River Levels Stabilise

Residents of flood-ravaged towns across England and Wales are continuing to battle high water levels as a week of torrential rainfall works its way through river systems.

At 2.15pm, a total of 146 flood warnings and 151 alerts remained in place despite the rain easing.

The Environment Agency said areas around slow-responding rivers including the Thames, Trent and Severn were a particular concern, but had now  reached their peak.

An EA spokesman said: "After several days of heavy rain, the ground is saturated and floodwater from small watercourses continues to flow into larger rivers like the Thames.

"The Environment Agency is carefully monitoring the levels in these rivers and will issue flood warnings if necessary."

It has lifted two severe flood warnings - meaning a potential danger to life - for the River Elwy in the cathedral city of St Asaph and the A55 to Rhuddlan in North Wales.

St Asaph remains severely flooded after the River Elwy reached a record high of 14ft 3in (4.35 metres) and burst through flood defences - making it more than 3ft (1 metre) deeper than its previous record of 11ft 4in (3.47 metres) in November 2009.

Hundreds of people spent the night away from their homes.

Insurance assessor David Flatley told Sky News there had been "significant" damage caused by the flooding in St Asaph.

"It is not just clean water, it is from the river so there are contaminants - there's mud and oil that has run off from the roads," he said.

"People often don't appreciate that things like their kitchens have got to be ripped out, the skirtings have got to be ripped out.

"So as well as the drying out process, which can takes four to six weeks, there is the ripping out before the reinstatement ... in reality it may be more like four or five months before the majority of these people are back in their homes."

Four people have died since the latest bout of wet weather struck and around 900 people in England and Wales have fled their waterlogged homes after heavy rain left many properties uninhabitable.

At Prime Minister's Questions, David Cameron praised the emergency services and "good neighbours" who had helped tackle the flooding.

He also defended Government spending plans on flood defences, saying: "The Government is planning to spend over £2bn over the next four years.

"That is 6% less than over the previous four years, but we believe by spending the money better and by leveraging from private and other sectors we can increase that level of flood defence spending.

"The spending that is already under way will protect an additional 145,000 homes between now and 2015, but if we can go further, of course we should."

Thousands of motorists and train services are subject to hold-ups and reduced services in the West Country and the North East.

The River Ouse in York peaked at 4.5 metres, flooding city centre businesses. The Environment Agency said while it does not expect the flood-prone river to rise any further today, it will remain high.