UK weather warning of further rain for areas already hit by flooding

Esther Addley and Alexandra Topping
Photograph: Ben Birchall/PA

Parts of the UK remain at risk of significant flooding from ongoing heavy rain, as Jeremy Corbyn challenged Boris Johnson to visit flood victims to “see what it’s like when you’ve got sewage water in your kitchen”.

The Labour leader added to criticism of the government’s response to the floods during a visit to south Wales on Thursday, where he said the prime minister should have convened the Cobra emergency meeting to manage the crisis.

“Sadly, I’m not surprised but I do think that it’s the duty of the prime minister to be there in places where there are difficulties, whether there is an election or not,” he said.

Asked if he had a message for Johnson, Corbyn said: “Go and visit people, go and talk to them, go and see what it’s like when you’ve got sewage water in your kitchen. Go see what it’s like when you lose all your personal possessions and just think about that. Think how you would feel if your house was flooded.”

Jeremy Corbyn meets Theresa Davies, who has been affected by flooding, in Rhydyfelin village, south Wales. Photograph: Geoff Caddick/AFP via Getty Images

In response, the environment secretary, George Eustice, accused the Labour leader of trying to politicise the floods.

The Environment Agency (EA) warned on Thursday of worsening conditions across the Pennines and parts of Yorkshire, and said that ongoing river flooding remained probable for the English-Welsh border around the River Severn for the rest of the week.

It said England had received 144% of the average February rainfall, and record river levels had been broken on the Colne, Ribble, Calder, Aire, Trent, Severn, Wye, Lugg, and Derwent.

The director of incident management, Caroline Douglass, warned residents of the flood risk. “This is the third weekend we have seen exceptional river levels and stormy weather, and, with the effects of climate change, we need to prepare for more frequent periods of extreme weather like this,” she said.

The EA’s prediction was echoed by the Met Office, which forecast another deluge across northern regions and parts of England.

Yellow warnings for rain and wind have remained throughout the week in the north of the UK. Ninety-one flood warnings stayed in place in England and Wales on Thursday afternoon as well as six severe flood warnings, meaning a danger to life.

The more extreme warnings were near the English-Welsh border, around the rivers Severn, Wye, and Lugg, where people had already experienced flooding. There are also 154 flood alerts across the country.

Flooding in Worcester city centre and racecourse. Photograph: Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

The prime minister was criticised earlier this week by the Plaid Cymru leader, Adam Price, who said the Welsh government should have its own Cobra-style system.

The business minister, Nadhim Zahawi, defended Johnson for not visiting areas of the UK affected by flooding. “[He] is focused to make sure that I, as the business minister, get the money out the door to those businesses. That’s what he has tasked me to do.

“He’s made sure that the ministers in the department for local government activate the Bellwin scheme, that’s what Robert Jenrick [the housing secretary] has done,” Zahawi told Sky News.

“He is now prime minister and is leading the team as the prime minister but quite rightly, rather than having a sort of jamboree of media and your whole entourage going, he wants to help people by getting the funding to them.”

He added that the Bellwin scheme – a system of of emergency financial assistance to help local authorities meet uninsurable costs – and 2,500 businesses hit by the floods would be helped.

Capel Curig village in north Wales received 54mm (2.12in) of rain in 24 hours, compared with an average of 97mm for the whole of February. The village of Shap in Cumbria, which recorded 120mm across February 2019, received 52mm before sunrise on Thursday.

Temporary flood barriers hold back the River Severn in Ironbridge, Shropshire. Photograph: Jacob King/PA

More weather warnings were likely on Friday with heavy rain expected across western Scotland, Yorkshire and parts of Cumbria. Gusts are also expected to strengthen on Friday.

The Met Office urged people to be mindful of warnings as they went about their day. “There could be some pretty tricky conditions on the roads. Make sure you give yourself a bit more time with travel because there’s some fairly heavy rain around,” the forecaster Mark Wilson said.

Fundraising efforts have continued for those affected, with communities in Wales starting collections.

On Wednesday, the actor Michael Sheen launched a campaign to raise money for those affected in Wales that raised half of its £10,000 goal within the first five hours.