Extreme weather, like the storms that have lashed the UK, could become a feature of the country’s climate, a minister has said.
Three storms have battered the nation over the past week, including Storm Eunice on Friday, which left 1.4 million households without electricity – some for up to 72 hours, with just under 30,000 still without power.
The Environment Agency has urged communities in parts of the West Midlands and the north of England, especially those along the River Severn, to be prepared for significant flooding until Wednesday after high rainfall from Storm Franklin.
As of 10pm on Monday it had issued 115 flood warnings in across England – two of those severe – and 119 flood alerts, meaning flooding is possible.
The rare “severe” warnings are in place for the River Severn in Shropshire at the Wharfage, Ironbridge, and in Worcestershire at Wribbenhall, Bewdley, where rising water levels pose a “significant risk to life”. Some residents have been asked to consider evacuating their homes.
It comes as police named Stephen Matthews, 68, a father of two from Aintree, as the passenger who died after debris struck the windscreen of a vehicle he was travelling in during high winds in Netherton, Merseyside, on Friday.
Business and Energy Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng, speaking in the Commons on Monday, said “four people have tragically lost their lives in incidents related to storms”.
He went on: “Some people, particularly in the south and east of England, have been without power for more than 72 hours.
“I want to reassure them that we have dedicated teams of engineers working night and day to get them reconnected as soon as possible.
“However as of four o’clock today [Monday], there are still just under 30,000 households who are without power.”
Ed Miliband, the Labour shadow climate change secretary, said that the UK will face “significant threats of extreme weather” in the next few years.
Responding to the warning, Kwasi Kwarteng said: “I think he is absolutely right to warn that extreme weather events could, not saying they will, but they could become a feature of our landscape, of our climate.”
Katharine Smith, flood duty manager at the Environment Agency, said: “Heavy rain, affecting already wet areas, is likely to cause significant river flooding along the River Severn until Wednesday.
“We have teams out on the ground taking preventative action, closing flood gates, deploying temporary barriers and moving pumps and other response equipment to areas of highest risk.
“While a handful of properties have sadly flooded over the past few days, Environment Agency defences have protected more than 40,000 properties despite record river levels.”
Storm Franklin’s highest gust of 87mph was recorded at the Needles on the Isle of Wight on Sunday evening, followed by gusts of 79mph on a mountaintop in Wales early on Monday.
Storm Eunice brought winds of up to 120mph to the UK and Ireland.
The Met Office said in some regions as much as five to six inches of rain had fallen in a “short period of time”.
Storm Franklin caused widespread rush-hour travel disruption on Monday morning, with National Rail telling customers not to travel.
Last week marked the first time three named storms have been recorded within seven days since the storm-naming system began in 2015, with Dudley, Eunice and Franklin.