Cobra crisis committee meets as Storm Eva rolls in across British Isles

Soldiers from 2LANCS helping to set up flood defences in Appleby as the Army has been called in to support efforts to protect flood-hit areas of Cumbria amid fears that more heavy rain will fall. Photo: 2LANCS/MoD Crown Copyright/PA Wire
Soldiers from 2LANCS helping to set up flood defences in Appleby as the Army has been called in to support efforts to protect flood-hit areas of Cumbria amid fears that more heavy rain will fall. Photo: 2LANCS/MoD Crown Copyright/PA Wire

The Government’s emergency Cobra committee was meeting today as thousands pray for a dry Christmas Day with another storm rolling across the British Isles prompting more flood warnings.

Heavy rain is forecast to fall this evening, feeding already-swollen rivers in Cumbria, where flooding has hit some areas three times already this month.

There were a total of 86 flood alerts issued across Wales, the Midlands, North East and North West, with eight flood warnings requiring “immediate” action issued to the North East, North West and Wales.

The north of England is expected to bear the brunt again as Storm Eva rolls in, bringing 80mph winds and widespread rainfall.

A Defra spokeswoman said: “As a result of the weather forecast, there will be a ministerial Cobra on Christmas Day to review the latest situation and receive further updates.”

Another deluge of up to six inches of rain is expected in Cumbria, which has already suffered the wettest December since records began in 1910.

A multi-agency Strategic Coordination Group has been set up to combat the expected flooding.

Armed forces personnel have been called in and 700 Environment Agency (EA) staff are on stand-by to bolster flood defences. One company from 2nd Battalion, Duke of Lancaster’s Regiment was deployed on Christmas morning, the the Ministry of Defence said.

The unit, based at Weeton Barracks near Preston, was on hand to help support efforts to protect flood-hit areas, with soldiers dressed in camouflage seen filling sandbags and erecting temporary flood walls.

Defence Secretary Michael Fallon said: “Even at Christmas our Armed Forces are keeping us safe. Once again they are responding to the Cumbria floods with a level of commitment that is to be applauded.”

Flood gates have been closed in Carlisle, Keswick and Cockermouth and the EA has transported more than a mile of temporary flood barriers and more than 20 extra pumps to the north of England.

Teams of workers from the agency have also been out checking and maintaining flood defences, clearing blockages in watercourses and monitoring water levels.

The Met Office has issued an amber alert for the county, highlighting the increased likelihood of “medium impacts” from the rain, meaning some flooding of homes, businesses and transport links is possible.

Rain will spread across Wales and northern England through the course of Christmas Day, reaching southern parts of Scotland during the early hours of Boxing Day, with prolonged spells forecast for south Cumbria.

The latest deluge will come as towns and villages across the county are still clearing up the aftermath of Storm Desmond earlier this month, which left hundreds of homes and businesses under water.

Around 40 roads and bridges remain damaged and closed, and hundreds of homes have been left uninhabitable.

Cluanie Inn in Inverness, Scotland, was where the most rain fell overnight, with 0.78ins (19.8mm) recorded between 5pm and 5am, a Met Office spokesman said.

Elsewhere, the EA said that for the next three days along the River Severn in Shropshire, Telford and Wrekin and Worcestershire, and the River Ouse in York, there is a possibility of sections of roads being flooded, travel disruption and delays due to temporary flood defences being deployed.

High tides are also expected, bringing with them the potential for large waves and spray along parts of the south and west coast of England.

Sir James Bevan, chief executive of the Environment Agency, said that after the latest run of bad weather the agency will talk to the communities affected to look at how they can be better protected in the future.

More information and help is available at or follow @EnvAgency and #floodaware on Twitter for the latest flood updates.

Traffic and travel information is available at and a helpline has been opened on 0345 988 1188.

Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron, whose Westmorland and Lonsdale constituency has been impacted by the floods, said the EA’s efforts to prevent flood damage had been “impressive”.

He paid tribute to the work of armed forces personnel, emergency services and churches in helping affected communities and highlighted how many had opened their doors to stricken families.

“It is wonderful that so many people are willing to give up their Christmas to help others. The community spirit across Cumbria today is truly remarkable,” he said in a statement.

Earlier this month Mr Farron became stranded in his car as he tried to navigate flooded roads in his rural constituency.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn also tweeted his thanks to firefighters, soldiers and EA staff, who said were “saving lives & homes”.

Major Nick Higgins of the 2nd Battalion told Sky News: “The people of Appleby and the surrounding area we have been operating in have been massively affected by these storms and it’s important that we are here to help them.”

The deployment meant the soldiers were away from their families at Christmas, for the first time for many of the younger battalion members, but it was “a working day” with tasks to complete.

“Today is business as usual,” he added.

The EA tweeted that its teams were working in a number of Cumbria towns that have suffered significantly in recent floods.

Staff were setting up demountable flood barriers in Warwick Bridge, Braithwaite and Appleby with the assistance of the Army and teams were also dispatched across Lakeland to Workington, Glenridding, Kendal, Carlisle and Keswick.