Homes have been evacuated and roads flooded as torrential rain plunged the north of England into chaos, with more severe weather expected over the coming days.
Residents of 35 homes in Mansfield were urged to leave as a precaution after a mudslide threatened to engulf their properties, while some homes in South Yorkshire have been submerged by nearly 10 feet of water, with people forced to abandon their cars.
Severe flooding left hundreds of people trapped in Yorkshire’s largest shopping mall ahead of an annual Christmas concert on Thursday evening.
Thousands arrived at Rotherham’s Meadowhall mall to enjoy a line-up of former X Factor singers and DJs, but many soon found themselves trapped as the fast-flowing River Don dramatically burst its banks, compromising several routes around the complex.
Soon any remaining exits were gridlocked and police were advising people not to leave the shopping centre, handing out sleeping bags on the first floor as flood defences were erected around the complex and contractors worked to pump out floodwater.
People were later allowed to leave but were warned there there will be severe delays due to “extreme weather conditions”.
The Met Office has issued three “danger to life” weather warnings across much of northern England and Wales, with a continued onslaught of torrential rain set to exacerbate already hazardous and disruptive flooding.
The Environment Agency is warning of likely flooding in nearly 100 areas as far south as Stratford-upon-Avon.
Railway lines are closed between Manchester, Sheffield and Lincoln, and the RAC has advised drivers to take alternative routes if there is any sign of flooding.
“The rain is going to get worse again tonight. We have a full emergency service running and we are monitoring the situation as best we can but we are inundated,” Sheffield councillor Mark Jones told BBC News.
“It’s all hands on deck, everything is being activated and mobilised but the fire service and [council contractors] Amey are working at full capacity.”
Sheffield appears to be on course to receive a month of Yorkshire’s monthly average of rain (90mm) within 24 hours, having already experienced 53.4mm.
PhD student Liz Churton, 58, whose home has suffered great damage in Whiston, Yorkshire, was notified of an imminent flood by the Environment Agency.
“I had an hour to move as much as I possibly could upstairs,” Ms Churton said. “I thought I would have more time but by 10am I was wading through and it was up to my knees.
“I do feel very shocked and frightened. You do your best to save the things you don’t want to lose like paperwork, art equipment, my Apple laptop and iPad.”
Ms Churton said sentimental paintings, art equipment, books and furniture, had all been destroyed in the floodwater.
“It gets to a point where you just need to let go of your belongings no matter the sentimental value and look after yourself,” she said.
The band of rain is forecast to begin moving southwards in time for rush hour on Friday morning, but commuters will be feeling heavy “legacy effects” of the downpour.
Transport networks are expected to remain severely disrupted, while many will likely be dealing with the aftermath of severe damage to homes and businesses.
Additional reporting by agencies