Severe flood warnings remain in force across parts of northern England after heavy rain from Storm Cristoph caused rivers to burst their banks and forced the evacuation of dozens of care home residents.
Environment Secretary George Eustice chaired a Cobra meeting on Thursday in response to the flooding and warned that more could be on the way next week.
Around 40 residents were assisted out of the Weaver Court care home in Northwich, Cheshire, by fire crews with dinghies on Thursday afternoon, as most of the town centre lay under water.
Earlier, Cheshire Fire and Rescue said it was in the process of rescuing 21 people by boat from Lea Court nursing home in Warrington.
Residents were also evacuated overnight in the Didsbury and Northenden areas of Greater Manchester, and Superintendent Julie Westgate, from Cheshire Constabulary, said a number of people had been evacuated in Warrington, Northwich, Chester, Ellesmere Port and Tattenhall.
total of 167 flood warnings were in place across parts of Wales, the Midlands and the north of England.
One woman said she “watched the water coming through the back door” of her house in Lymm, Cheshire in the early hours of Thursday.
Gabrielle Burns-Smith said: “By 3pm yesterday the water outside was shin-deep and by 4pm it was knee-deep, and we were seriously worrying that the house was going to be breached. Then it was.”
Over in Wales, police said streets were flooded and a “large number of properties” evacuated in the village of Skewen, after a “flooding incident” around Thursday midday.
Elsewhere in the country, emergency teams were called out to protect supplies of the Oxford University and AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine following flooding at Wrexham Industrial Estate.
— Northwich Police (@PoliceNorthwich) January 21, 2021
Some residents were also asked to leave their homes in parts of Ruthin and Bangor on Dee in North Wales, as well as Maghull in Merseyside.
Richard Kilpatrick, a councillor with Manchester City Council – and a Didsbury evacuee – told The Independent it had been “an anxious and difficult night”.
“We have been telling people to leave their home to stay safe when, for the past 12 months, they have been told the exact opposite: to stay home to stay safe. So, there is a contrast there that has been difficult. But there has been so much togetherness. The community has really pulled together.”
It was a waiting game, he said in the morning. River levels had gone down overnight and the deluge had paused. But more rain was forecast Thursday.
“It’s a better picture this morning,” Cllr Kilpatrick added. “But we are not out the woods yet.”
On a visit to Disbury, Boris Johnson said the Environment Agency had used sluice gates and “improvised emergency flood defences”.
“I think 10,000 homes in the Manchester area, in the Didsbury area, have been protected just as a result of what they have been doing overnight,” the UK prime minister told reporters.
A severe flood warning for parts of Manchester was stood down on Thursday, with the “worst-case scenario” avoided when the Didsbury Basin did not “significantly overflow”, the city council said.
“However, high water levels have flooded some gardens and some roads remain closed,” the authority said in a statement.
Mr Johnson hosted a Cobra meeting on Wednesday and urged people that night to heed the flood warnings and evacuate their properties when told to do so.
The prime minister emphasised that the current Covid rules allow people to leave their homes in an emergency and insisted the government was “totally prepared” for the potential duel crisis of coronavirus and flooding.
He added: “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 – follow the advice. If you are told to leave your home then you should do so.”
Public transport has been disrupted by the weather too, with the East Coast Main Line between Darlington and York flooded and a bus replacement service set up.
Additional reporting by Press Association