UK & World News
Floods: Most Severe Warnings Are Downgraded
The Environment Agency has downgraded 14 of its 16 severe flood warnings but has urged people to remain vigilant as river levels remain high.
It also warned properties could be flooded "for some time".
The scaling down of the "threat to life alerts" on the Thames still leaves two severe flood warnings in place on the Somerset Levels, where the country's largest pumping operation is taking place.
The River Severn has also risen as a result of recent rainfall, causing a "continued risk" of flooding in Worcestershire and Gloucestershire,
Around 290 flood warnings and less serious flood alerts remain in place in England and Wales.
The agency is urging people to remain vigilant as river levels are still very high across southern England and groundwater flooding remains a concern in Berkshire, Hampshire, Surrey, Sussex, Kent and parts of London.
It came as businesses have told Sky News they fear David Cameron's £10m fund to help them recover from devastating floods will be "too little too late".
Mat Crocker, the agency's duty flood risk manager, said: "Flooding has devastating impacts on communities and businesses and our thoughts are with all those that have been flooded.
"An improving situation on the Thames has meant that we have been able to remove the severe flood warnings but we will continue to see the impacts of flooding.
"Groundwater flooding will continue to threaten properties for some time to come and we will support the local authorities' emergency response.
"Environment Agency teams are working round the clock and we have deployed over 50 temporary defences protecting many homes and businesses - 1.3 million properties have been protected since the start of December as a result of Environment Agency defences."
As part of the continuing relief effort, the Prime Minister confirmed some of the details of the†package aimed at helping flood-hit traders to clean up and stay in business as he met volunteers, residents and troops in the west of England.
Speaking in Worcestershire, he said: "We've announced that we're going to have a grant system of up to £5,000 for businesses that have been flooded so they can help to better protect themselves in future.
"But we also need this £10m fund, which will be distributed to local authorities so they can help businesses that have been directly or indirectly hit by the floods."
However, some businesses have raised concerns the emergency funding will not reach them in time.
Boatyard owner Michael Dennett has lost vital equipment including a forklift truck, circular saw and planing machine to flooding after the Thames burst its banks.
He told Sky's Clare Fallon he was "sceptical" about the Prime Minister's pledge.
He said: "It sounds good but it will be too little, too late by the time the Government decides who qualifies and how much.
"It will be months down the line, which is no good for now. Most of our heavy machinery is out of commission and the place is wrecked - we need immediate help."
In Burrowbridge, Somerset, Gillard Transport say they are losing £2,000-3,000 a week because of diversions their lorries must take to avoid flooding.
The company's manager Roger Hutchings told Sky's Isabel Webster: "We've been in this business 40 years and I don't take much truck on a politician's pledge.
"If he just passes that money over to the local council, we won't see any of it."†
Mr Cameron visited Upton-upon-Severn, Worcestershire, where the army was deployed after the town was cut in two by floodwaters, and defended the Government's handling of the recent crisis.
He said: "I'll try to get to every part of the country that's been affected so that we can learn all the lessons.
"But here in Worcestershire we can recognise that the flood investment that went in after 2007 has made a real difference, with hundreds of properties protected."
Mr Cameron spoke to members of†1st Battalion The Royal Irish Regiment who have been using high-axle troop carriers to run residents in Upton across the river since Saturday morning.
Later, he went to the Queen's Head in Longford, near Gloucester, to meet local residents who have set up a flood warden scheme.
Under the £10m Business Support Scheme, small and medium sized businesses will be able to access funds to cover clean-up costs in the wake of the winter storms.
A helpline is also being set up to provide advice, and those who are late filing accounts because of the flooding will not incur penalties.
It came as unions warned the Environment Agency would press ahead with slashing up to 1,700 jobs after the floods had retreated.
The GMB said a meeting had been set for Thursday, where it believed a timetable for future redundancies would be discussed.
A spokesman said: "This is ludicrous. Has the Government learned nothing from the current floods?"
Swathes of the UK remain on high alert as people battle to protect their homes and communities from the floodwaters, which are still expected to rise in places despite a respite from the storms.
Sporadic rain is expected in the coming days, bringing fears of the possibility of water levels rising once again, but forecasters are predicted a largely drier week ahead.
In the meantime, police launched round-the-clock boat patrols to assist residents and prevent crime on the flooded Somerset Levels.
Two inflatable lifeboats will be crewed by the RNLI and Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service, with two officers from the police's underwater search unit aboard.
And groups of offenders have been helping fill hundreds of sandbags to protect homes in Somerset.
The Probation Service is supervising the work at a council depot in Bridgwater, which is being carried out by offenders on Community Payback schemes.
Police have also warned the public to be on their guard after the recent storms washed up wartime explosives on beaches in Devon, Somerset, and Dorset.
Officers are urging anyone who comes across a "suspicious device" along the coast to call 999 immediately and not to approach it.
The emergency services have also been called to deal with a growing number of large sinkholes.
Defence Secretary Philip Hammond has already admitted the military could have been brought in earlier to help deal with the winter storms that have wracked the country and claimed a number of lives.
He said Royal Engineers were now being tasked to carry out a high-speed assessment of "serious" damage to the UK's flood defence infrastructure, but conceded that in future the Government would involve the military earlier in the process and be more "aggressive" in urging local authorities to use troops.
More than 3,500 troops are currently involved in the flood relief effort, with thousands more on hand if needed.
Among those killed in the recent storms were James Swinstead, 85, an elderly passenger on a cruise ship in the English Channel, and minicab driver Julie Sillitoe, 49, whose car was hit by falling masonry in central London.
There is still widespread disruption to many rail services including CrossCountry, First Great Western (FGW), and South West Trains.
Network Rail has said more damage was done to the coastal railway line at Dawlish over the weekend, which could delay reconstruction of the track.
Insurance companies are to attend a meeting in 10 Downing Street on Tuesday to discuss their response to the flooding crisis with Cabinet Office Minister Oliver Letwin and Jo Johnson, head of the Prime Minister's policy unit.
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