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Britain sends in hundreds of troops to tackle ‘unprecedented’ floods

Oli Scarff, AFP | A woman looks out from a flooded property adjacent to the River Foss which burst its banks in York, northern England, on December 27, 2015

Britain's government said Sunday it will send more troops to tackle "unprecedented" flooding in northern England which has forced hundreds to flee their homes, including in the historic tourist city of York.

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Prime Minister David Cameron made the announcement after hosting a conference call of the emergency COBRA committee on the floods, which have caused chaos during the post-Christmas holiday period.

An extra 200 military personnel are being sent in to work with the 300 already on the ground. A further 1,000 troops are on standby in case the situation gets worse, Downing Street said.

Over 200 flood warnings and alerts are in place in England and Wales, 24 of them severe, signalling a risk to life.

Further rain was expected Sunday, although it was not expected to be as severe as the damage caused by Storm Eva on Saturday.

"More troops are being deployed as part of a plan to do whatever is needed," Cameron wrote on Twitter after the COBRA call to discuss what he said was "unprecedented" flooding.

The latest floods come three weeks after another part of northern England, Cumbria, was badly hit by Storm Desmond.

Highlighting their scale, Tim Peake, who is the first British astronaut on the International Space Station, wrote on Twitter: "Passed over the UK today - thoughts are with all those affected by flooding in northern England."

Evacuations by boat

Some 3,500 properties in York are at risk of flooding, and special centres have been set up to shelter hundreds residents who have left their homes.

Floodwater in some streets almost totally submerged parked cars, and members of the emergency services paddled around in dinghies checking for stranded residents.

With its cobbled streets and timbered buildings, York is one of Britain's top tourist attractions.

It has a rich history dating back to Roman times and is home to one of Europe's finest cathedrals, which is about 800 years old.

Lisa Pallister, 36, said she decided to leave her home in York with her family as the floodwaters rose.

"We didn't think it would reach us because we're raised off the ground and have three storeys, but by this morning it was on the steps and it is going to rise by lunchtime. So we had a boat ride out," she said.

Hundreds of people have also been evacuated elsewhere in Yorkshire and Lancashire. Parts of the city of Leeds and Greater Manchester are among the places affected by the flooding.

More than 6,000 homes in Greater Manchester and Lancashire were also without electricity due to flood damage.

Manchester police say they are now in the "recovery" phase of their operation, trying to return life to normal for local residents, but warned that this could take some time.

(AFP)

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