Storm Christoph: Boris Johnson warns of worse rain to come as thousands are evacuated

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Gordon Rayner
·4 min read
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A car is submerged by rising floodwater in St Helens, Lancashire - Richard Long/News Images 
A car is submerged by rising floodwater in St Helens, Lancashire - Richard Long/News Images
Coronavirus Article Bar with counter
Coronavirus Article Bar with counter

Thousands of people in Manchester are facing evacuation from their homes because of flooding which Boris Johnson warned could get worse next week.

Families already enduring lockdown have been warned that power cuts are likely, while others have been told they must be ready to leave their homes.

Some 2,000 properties in Greater Manchester will be evacuated overnight due to flooding caused by Storm Christoph, the city council said.

Police and firefighters were working with Manchester City Council to evacuate homes in East Didsbury, West Didsbury and Northenden on Wednesday evening.

People have also been asked to leave their homes in parts of Ruthin, North Wales, and Maghull in Merseyside due to rising floodwaters.

Assistant Chief Constable Nick Bailey said: "A basin at Didsbury to take water from the Mersey is full. It will over-top in the next few hours. As a result, we will be issuing a flood warning to homes. This will be through texted flood alerts to some people and police officers, PCSOs, firefighters, and volunteers will be knocking on doors.

"To help evacuate people we will have support from North West Ambulance, the British Red Cross and St John Ambulance. We have identified about 160 people that will be moved. There will be provision at Wythenshawe Forum and hotels are being used.

"Some of those that are being evacuated will also be Covid-positive or isolating at home."

Ministers fear Storm Christoph could halt the rollout of vaccines in some areas, with flooding threatening to close vaccination centres and interrupt the delivery of the jabs.

Watch: Storm Christoph - Thousands of properties being evacuated due to flooding

With more than 100 flood warnings and more than 200 flood alerts issued by the Environment Agency, preparations were being made on Wednesday night for Covid-secure evacuation centres with separate accommodation for people who are shielding.

Mr Johnson chaired a meeting of the Cobra emergency committee on Wednesday to discuss the response to the storm, which has already flooded parts of East Anglia and the north of England.

The Prime Minister said Greater Manchester, where police say 3,000 homes could flood, was of particular concern, adding: "We have got a situation potentially developing there. We are looking at a pattern of rainfall, possibly not so bad this week but worse possibly next week."

He said steps were being taken to ensure that transport and energy networks were prepared so that electricity outages would not be "severe" and that there were sufficient supplies of sandbags.

Government sources said there were "concerns around vaccine deployment".

Ministers have already warned that meeting a target of getting all over-70s vaccinated by February 15 will be "tight" following recent supply problems, and any suspension of the programme in parts of the country will mean NHS workers having to deploy vaccines even faster to catch up.

A Government source said: "At the moment the vaccination centres remain open and we are telling people they should still attend appointments, but if they are unable to get there or if the centres have to be closed we will reschedule their jabs."

Mr Johnson's official spokesman said the Government was "alive" to the issue of people having to be housed in Covid-secure accommodation if they have to be evacuated, and that preparations have been made to provide rest centres in which people who are shielding will also be able to stay safe.

2101 Weather
2101 Weather

A spokesman for the Environment Agency said one option for people who are shielding would be to stay with family or friends temporarily, which would not be in breach of lockdown laws. Going somewhere to escape the risk of harm, such as if a home might flood, is among the exemptions for leaving home under the current rules.

Mr Johnson urged people to heed warnings if they are advised to evacuate because of flooding, saying: "There are some times where I have been to scenes where, alas, people have decided not to obey the advice and not evacuated.

"It is their right not to do so if they choose – it's always people's right to stay wherever they are. But it really is advisable to follow the advice. If you are told to leave your home, then you should do so."

The Environment Agency has 25 miles of temporary barriers which can be deployed anywhere in the country, as well as 250 high-volume pumps and 6,500 staff on standby. The Armed Forces have also been placed on standby in case they are needed to help in any rescue efforts.

Watch: Supermarket delivery driver rescued from flooded river

The flood warnings issued by the Environment Agency, which mean flooding is expected and "immediate action is required", mainly cover the North-West, Yorkshire and the East Midlands. Flood alerts, meaning flooding is possible, are in place from Cornwall to Northumberland.

Major incidents were declared in Cheshire, Greater Manchester and South Yorkshire, with some people living on boats in Cheshire and South Yorkshire moved to hotels as a precaution.

More than five inches of rain had fallen in a 24-hour period in some parts of England on ground already saturated by snow melt and earlier rain.