UK & World News
Weather: MoD May Join Flood Relief Efforts
Environment Secretary Owen Paterson says the Ministry of Defence may deploy "specialist vehicles" to help people affected by major flood damage.
In a statement released after the latest meeting of the Government's emergency Cobra committee, Mr Paterson also confirmed that dredging "will begin" as soon as it is safe.
"MoD considering deploying specialist vehicles and extra help including sandbags and dredging will begin as soon as safe," the statement said.
"Things are going to get worse with rising tides and people need to be prepared."
The MoD also says a "handful" of military planners have been deployed to Somerset to help the county council plan what military support may be needed.
The measures come after David Cameron told MPs he will "rule nothing out" in tackling flooding in the Somerset Levels.
The Prime Minister said dredging would begin once water levels had receded to safe levels. The hugely expensive process involves using diggers or pumps to remove build-ups of silt from river beds.
"I can confirm that dredging will start as soon as it's practical, as soon as the waters have started to come down," he told MPs.
"The Environment Agency (EA) are pumping as much as possible given the capacity of the rivers, but I've ordered that further high volume pumps ... will be made available to increase the volume of the pumping operation.
"We're urgently exploring what further help the government can give to locals to move around and I rule nothing out for the days ahead to get this problem sorted."
The EA has issued some 24 flood warnings and 151 flood alerts, mostly for areas in the South East and the South West.
Many of those in flood-hit areas are calling for immediate action to alleviate what some residents have described as "Third World" conditions.
Parts of the Levels have been under water since Christmas. There are fears that it may be months before the water is entirely pumped away.
Further showers fell across England and Wales on Wednesday. Rain is expected to spread across Northern Ireland on Thursday, and there will be more patchy rain for parts of England.
Meanwhile, insurance claims from the floods and storms over Christmas and the New Year could reach £426m.
The Association of British Insurers (ABI) says that between December 23, 2013 and January 8, 2014, insurers dealt with some 174,000 claims for damage to homes, businesses and cars.
Aidan Kerr, ABI spokesperson said: "Insurers are playing a crucial role in helping customers affected by the storms and floods recover.
"Together with loss adjusters, insurers reacted quickly to help flood victims get through Christmas. Insurers will continue to work closely with customers to ensure the repair process is completed as soon as possible.
"This was a traumatic event for those affected, and shows the importance of having adequate property insurance. The insurance industry is fully prepared to deal with the damage caused by bad weather like this."
The Environment Agency has advised claimants to request insurance pay for repairs that will better protect properties from flooding in future.
Claimants should also mark the height of flood water on the wall with a permanent marker in all flooded rooms and take pictures of property damage.
:: Watch Sky News on Thursday for special coverage from Somerset, live on Sky channel 501, Virgin Media channel 602, Freeview channel 82 and Freesat channel 202.