More crews from East set to help flood-hit North

Light Dragoons are thanked by Prime Minister David Cameron for their help in flood affected areas in

Light Dragoons are thanked by Prime Minister David Cameron for their help in flood affected areas in the north of England - Credit: supplied

Fire crews from this region remain on stand-by after residents in flood-ravaged regions of Cumbria and Yorkshire were warned their homes could be flooded again.

Norfolk's Urban Search and Rescue (USAR) team has been on red alert since the team of eight was sent to northern England on Boxing Day to assist with the response to the floods.

Now more firefighters from both Norfolk and Suffolk are preparing to join them as Storm Frank threatened to bring more gales and downpours overnight.

Craig Woolhouse, director of incident management at the Environ-ment Agency (EA), 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.'

Suffolk Fire and Rescue Service has sent an officer to Cumbria to act as a tactical adviser and, like its Norfolk counterparts, has more teams ready to act. In total, 200 nationwide firefighters have been helping in the North.

The EA warned of the potential for further significant flooding especially in Cumbria, while floods minister Rory Stewart said there could be a 'very bad situation' ahead.

The government later announced that local authorities in the flood-hit areas of northern England are to get £50m of immediate funding.

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Last night, the ground in affected areas was still saturated and river levels at record highs. Flood waters were receding but across the north of England over the past week more than 6,700 homes have been flooded as river levels reached all-time highs.

Soldiers were drafted in to evacuate homes around a storm-battered bridge in North Yorkshire after it started to collapse, prompting fears of flooding and a gas explosion.

A severe flood warning has been issued for the bridge, over the River Wharfe in Tadcaster, with the EA warning locals to leave immediately because of a 'significant risk to life'. The 18th-century bridge started to collapse into the swollen river around 5pm, with a crowd gathering as masonry fell into the swirling torrent.

Members of Norfolk's frontline crew, who could return to Norfolk today while remaining on stand-by, have been using boats to take nurses and carers, carrying essential medical supplies, as well as searching for those still in their homes.

As anxious residents and businesses brace themselves for a fresh onslaught, Sir Philip Dilley, the head of the EA, is returning to the UK from his family holiday in Barbados. Sir Philip, who has faced criticism for his absence, was expected back in the next 24 hours. It is believed a visit to the flood-hit region will be an early priority.

The army, around 600 personnel, was drafted in to help EA staff repair York's Foss barrier. 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. A Chinook helicopter was used to drop portable power generators on to the barrier's roof on Monday. Most of the remaining 'severe' flood warnings issued by the EA for England and Wales – meaning potential loss of life – are centred on York, which was inundated on Boxing Day.

Last night, there were four severe flood warnings, 46 flood warnings and 81 flood alerts in place across England and Wales.

How to finance flood defence? Annabelle Dickson – Page 31