Dorset residents on alert as strong winds, high waves and heavy rain continue to threaten saturated areas of England and WalesA tractor ventures out from a farm near the village of Muchelney, in Somerset, which was cut off due to severe flooding. Photograph: Ben Birchall/PA Large parts of Britain remain at risk of further flooding this week as forecasters warned of more heavy rain.
The Met Office has extended its severe weather alert until Thursday morning, warning that the already saturated ground and swollen rivers in the south of England and Wales might not cope with more rain.
The yellow warning -- the lowest of the Met Office's three levels -- forecasts "periods of heavy rain" in the south-west of England and Wales for Wednesday and into Thursday with 30mm to 40mm falling in the wettest spots. Three severe weather warnings, signalling danger to life, remain in place in Dorset as waves and strong winds continue to batter coastal regions of the UK.
The warnings were for Preston beach, Lower Stour and Chiswell, where the Environment Agency sounded its flood siren warning of extreme danger to people and property on Monday night after the sea breached Chesil beach and spray crashed over flood defences.
Dorset police warned residents to move to an upstairs room facing away from the sea and told those who had been evacuated not to return to their homes.
More than 100 flood warnings, signalling immediate action required, are in place, including in Dorset, Oxfordshire, south Wiltshire, Hampshire and along the river Thames, while more than 195 low-level alerts have been issued.,The Met Office said heavy showers, some of them combined with hail and thunder, would continue to affect parts of southern England at times throughout Tuesday and early on Wednesday.
A spokesman said: "Further bands of showers running into southern counties have the potential to produce intense bursts of rain, these quickly leading to localized impacts given the very saturated ground. Hail will be an additional hazard associated with some of the heaviest showers."
On Monday, Labour accused the environment secretary, Owen Paterson, of buck passing after he said the government was working closely with local councils, the insurance industry and others, to ensure that people affected by flooding could quickly get the help they needed.
Friends of the Earth have challenged the government's claim that it has presided over an increase in spending on flood defenses, claiming that analysis of figures from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs showed a drop.Coastlines in southern England and Wales were particularly badly affected by the latest band of storms. Flooding in the Somerset Levels had left villages cut off, damaged roads and buildings, and waves of up to 27ft were recorded at Land's End, the most westerly point of England. In Aberystwyth, Ceredigion, residents of seafront properties along the promenade were again evacuated to a rest center at a local school.
The Thames barrier was closed on Tuesday for the 11th consecutive day, approaching the record number of consecutive closures, which was 14 in January 2003.
Searches involving more than 100 volunteers are continuing in south Devon for missing university student Harry Martin, who was last seen leaving his home to take photographs of the weather. Devon and Cornwall police said a 20-mile stretch of coastline, 10 miles either side of the 18-year-old's home at Newton Ferrers, had been extensively searched as well as inland areas.
Seven people have died and more than 1,700 homes and businesses have been flooded in England since the beginning of the Christmas period, with 300 properties flooded since the new year. Some 140 properties have been flooded in Wales.