Hundreds of people are being evacuated from their homes overnight amid widespread flooding across England and Wales caused by Storm Christoph.
About 2,000 homes in the Didsbury and Northenden areas of Manchester, and in Ruthin and Bangor-on-Dee, North Wales, and Maghull, Merseyside, are affected.
There are more than 200 flood warnings in place – five of them severe – and weather alerts for rain and snow.
People have been told Covid rules allow them leave their homes in an emergency.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the government is “totally prepared” for the dual crises of flooding and the pandemic and that Covid-secure facilities would be available for any people forced to evacuate as a result of the weather.
Heavy rainfall has already seen multiple major incidents and flood alerts declared across England and Wales.
Amber and yellow weather warnings are in force until Thursday morning for the storm, which is also threatening to bring up to 11.8in (30cm) of snow to northern areas.
Many rivers are at “dangerously high levels”, the Environment Agency said .
A resident of Didsbury, Fari Iravani, told BBC News his family has been told to evacuate but “during corona where do you evacuate to? You don’t want to impose yourself on other people”.
He added: “We are trying to hold on as long as we can, and hopefully it will pass… If there is a continuation of the rain and the storm, that’s going to be a problem.”
Another man, Leo Donnelly, said the authorities had put good flood defences in place over the last 20 years and he believed it meant only properties located close to the River Mersey would potentially face damage.
“The water has risen slightly higher than it’s previous high – but clearly at the moment it’s holding firm,” he said.
Some residents in the Maghull area of Sefton, Merseyside, were also advised to leave their properties. The Environment Agency said levels of the River Alt were expected to remain high and flooding was possible on Thursday.
In the early hours of the morning, North Wales Police began evacuating residents of Bangor on Dee from their properties. They were asked to go to a nearby school, where they would be picked up in 4x4s and taken to safety.
On Wednesday evening, the force were called to help some residents in Ruthin who were being told to leave their homes, but they warned resources were being stretched by people who did not live locally driving to witness the floods.
Vehicles have also been pulled from floods in Tenby, Llandovery, Llandeilo and Whitland, Mid and West Wales fire service said.
Up to 8in (20cm) of rain is expected to fall, with the heaviest rain forecast for the north west of Wales.
‘Never underestimate floods’
Speaking after a meeting of the government’s emergency committee Cobra on Wednesday, Boris Johnson urged people not to stay in their homes if they were told to evacuate.
“If you are told to leave your home then you should do so”, he said.
“People may think this is a minor issue at the moment, still relevantly minor by standards of previous floods, but never underestimate the suffering, the misery, that floods can cause people.”
He also said steps were being taken to ensure the transport and energy networks were prepared so that electricity outages would not be “severe” and that there were sufficient supplies of sandbags.
The situation in Manchester was of particular concern, he said.
“We want to make sure that we are totally prepared in every part of the UK for flooding, because it is coming on top of the stress people are already under fighting Covid,” he added.
Labour’s shadow floods minister Stephanie Peacock said the government’s response to the floods had been “slow and uncoordinated”.
“We must ensure councils are supported to protect people, businesses, and local communities, and that all of the necessary precautions are also in place to protect those fighting the floods in light of the Covid-19 pandemic.”
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