Britain’s emergency response committee met on Sunday after prolonged heavy rain caused widespread flooding in northwest England and forced emergency services to evacuate residents from their homes.
The meeting was called after storms battered the country overnight, killing one man and leaving hundreds of homes flooded and without power. Police declared a major incident and coastguards were called in to rescue stranded residents.
Environment Secretary Elizabeth Truss said the government committee had been called to “urgently assess the scale of the floods and ensure the response remains coordinated, effective and gets help to those affected as quickly as possible.”
Police said they believed one man was killed in London, which also experienced high winds, after he was blown into the side of a moving bus. There were no other reports of deaths or injuries.
Britain has suffered several heavy floods in recent years. In 2014 thousands of acres of farmland in the south of the country were submerged for weeks and the northwest region was badly flooded in both 2009 and 2005.
Prime Minister David Cameron said on Twitter that the army had been mobilised to help those affected.
“Looking down the main street where I am now I can’t tell where the river starts and where it ends … it’s dirty brown water. It’s a real mess,” Mark Walker, a local teacher, told Reuters by telephone from the badly-affected city of Carlisle.
He said the water was waist high at points along the road and had flooded local businesses including a car dealership and a convenience store. Emergency services had been evacuating homes by boat and helicopter, he said.
Britain’s national weather service, the Met Office, said in one of the worst affected areas 201.8 millimetres (7.94 inches) of rain had fallen on Saturday – only slightly below the 215 mm usually seen during the whole of December. Gusts of wind reached 90 miles per hour, a spokesman said.
The worst of the storm responsible for the flooding, named ‘Desmond’ by the Met office, had passed according to forecasters but more wet weather was expected in coming days.
Farron was driving through his Westmorland and Lonsdale constituency with four children in the car when he got stuck on a heavily flooded back road.
“We were getting our way round the various diversions and basically a river that isn’t normally there was there,” he told BBC News.
“Having been around the patch today talking to people who have been directly affected, I now find myself in the middle of it. But we’re all safe, that’s the main thing.”
Farron said that friends with a four-wheel drive were on their way to rescue them – although he admitted that his own vehicle was probably a write-off.
“That car may have seen its last journey, a Volvo or not,” he said.
While the area was well used to severe weather, the Lib Dem leader said that he could not remember conditions as bad.
“It is incredible weather. We have not seen anything like this. This is Cumbria for pity’s sake – we are used to challenging weather. This is beyond anything I can even recall,” he said.