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UK: Christmas on hold as floods loom

Christmas preparations will be on hold for thousands of people up and down the UK as they brace themselves against the possibility of further flooding.

Hundreds of homes and businesses have been swamped with floodwaters, from the southern-most parts of Cornwall to the Highlands of Scotland as winter rains fall across a land that is saturated to bursting point.

Despite a brief respite from the downpours yesterday, water levels continued to rise as rain washed down off hills to swell already torrential rivers.

And people will be watching nervously as more rain that lashed the South and South West of England overnight gradually moves northwards.

Others will be swapping turkey and presents for mops, buckets and sandbags as they desperately try to clear up and protect their homes from further threats of floods.

Many will be unable to return home, instead spending the festive period with relatives or in temporary accommodation.

There is little let-up on the immediate horizon.

The Environment Agency (EA) still has one severe flood warning - meaning there is "danger to life" - in place for the River Cober at Helston in west Cornwall, a town that has already seen residents evacuated from their homes.

The EA said last night that it was pumping Loe Pool to minimise the impact on water levels upstream at Helston, but that water levels were still rising.

Up to 30mm of rain is expected to fall between midnight and noon, which is expected to further contribute to the possibility of flooding, the EA said.

The EA currently has 145 flood warnings in place, urging people to take immediate action, across the UK, the majority in the Midlands and the South West, and a further 268 flood alerts.

Scotland has also been badly affected, with floods and high winds battering the east coast over the weekend.

There are currently 23 flood warnings in place across Aberdeenshire, Caithness and Sutherland, Dundee and Angus, Tayside and the Borders, and further outbreaks of rain are expected across the country from lunchtime.

The Met Office has warned that this may add to the risk of further flooding over still saturated ground in some parts, and the public has been advised that it could bring more disruption to travel.

The rain is forecast to gradually clear eastern Scotland in the evening.

Up to 100 properties were vacated as a result of the flooding in Stonehaven, with a rest centre set up at Mackie Academy to keep the victims safe and warm.

The Environment Minister Paul Wheelhouse will visit the town today to speak to residents and thank people for the efforts to mitigate and clean up the damage.

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