London - Heavy rains triggered floods in parts of England on Saturday, forcing the evacuation of hundreds of homes and the deployment of army personnel to shore up overwhelmed defences.
Lancashire in northwest England and Yorkshire in the northeast were the worst affected, with environment officials issuing more than 300 alerts in those areas, including 20 warnings of possible deadly floods.
In some areas water reached the lower windows of houses and shops, and in others cars had been abandoned after narrow country roads had turned into fast-flowing streams.
Underscoring the severity of the deluge, the government's emergency COBRA committee met on Christmas day to tackle the crisis, with officials under pressure after similar flooding earlier this month in northwest England.
The floods in Cumbria caused damage estimated at hundreds of millions of pounds and turned many towns and villages into swamps, prompting angry accusations that the government had failed to spend enough on flood defences.
Skynews reports it may be the biggest flooding recorded in northwest England since records begin or at least 70 years.