Floods hit parts of England as government scrambles to respond

Prime Minister David Cameron will chair a call of the COBRA emergency committee as the floods in northern England cause chaos for families during the holiday season (AFP Photo/)

London (AFP) - Heavy rains triggered floods in parts of northern England on Saturday, forcing the evacuation of hundreds of homes and the deployment of army personnel to shore up overwhelmed defences.

Lancashire in northwest England and Yorkshire in the northeast were the worst affected, with environment officials issuing more than 300 alerts in those areas, including 31 warnings of possible deadly floods.

The Met Office national weather service issued its most serious "red warning", which calls on those in areas at risk to take action.

Around 10,000 homes in the region were without power after a substation was damaged, and many elderly and other vulnerable people were rescued from inundated homes by lifeboat.

In some areas water reached the lower windows of houses and shops, turning high streets into muddy waterways, and cars were abandoned after narrow country lanes turned into fast-flowing streams.

Underscoring the severity of the deluge, Prime Minister David Cameron is expected to visit the flood-hit region on Monday after chairing an emergency government COBRA committee meeting on Sunday.

An emergency meeting had also been held on Christmas Day.

"My thoughts are with people whose homes have been flooded. I'll chair a COBRA call tomorrow to ensure everything is being done to help," Cameron tweeted.

Officials are under pressure after similar flooding earlier this month in northwest England.

The floods in Cumbria caused damage estimated at hundreds of millions of pounds and turned many towns and villages into swamps, prompting angry accusations that the government had failed to spend enough on flood defences.

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