22.47: Power cuts have been reported in Datchet, Singleton and East Marden in the Thames area amid continued flooding. It is not yet known how many homes have been affected, but Sky News reported that up to 1,700 properties could have lost power.
21.09 Later it emerged that the sinkhole was actually 15ft-deep.
Dozens of engineers are investigating the hole near Sittingbourne in Kent but the Highways Agency is refusing to state when the motorway could reopen.
It is unlikely to be in time for Wednesday morning rush hour.
"We're not putting a timescale on it at the moment," Highways Agency spokesperson Kelly Barnes told Sky News.
"We're investigating the cause and then it's a case of seeing how we repair it.
"One of the main reasons we closed the motorway, which we never do lightly, is for safety reasons.
"People should anticipate that it will remain closed overnight and into rush hour on Wednesday."
20.15 Communities along the Thames and on the Somerset Levels are expected to be hit with heavy rain, strong winds and more flooding tomorrow, the Environment Agency (EA) has warned.
Around 1,000 properties have been reported as flooded in the past week, including 800 along the Thames.
About 100 remain affected on the Somerset Levels, where extra pumps have been brought in from Holland to reduce levels on the rivers Parrett and Tone.
Groundwater flooding is also expected to affect Hampshire, Kent and parts of London in the coming days, the EA said.
The agency's chief executive, Paul Leinster, said: "Stormy weather will continue to threaten communities this week, with further flooding expected along the Thames in Berkshire and Surrey.
16.20 Compounding travel misery for many commuters, a 10-mile stretch of the M2 in north Kent has been closed both ways after a huge, 50ft-deep hole appeared in the central reservation.
Long tailbacks have built up after the major motorway in north Kent was shut between junction 5 near Sittingbourne and junction 6 south of Faversham.
15.30 The Met Office has tweeted this picture of tomorrow's storm and its likely course:
15.10 More rescued Wrasybury residents have criticised the Government response to flooding in their village.
Joy Levinson was rescued with her pet labrador in a fire brigade dinghy after her home became surrounded by water.
The 69-year-old said: "I just feel shaky and tired.
"We've got 10 acres of fields and it's like a lake. It's been bad since Saturday. We had to get a dinghy."
Sam Imber, 25, travelled from Brighton with his 4x4 vehicle to boost the relief effort.
Armed Forces personnel arrived in the village at lunchtime to provide assistance, but Mr Imber was unhappy at the delay.
"It's absolutely disgusting to be totally honest.
"I can't understand the fact that we've got Army bases so close to here yet the Army vehicles are sitting there and they're not being drafted in," he said.
"We've got the facilities, why aren't we using them? I just don't understand."
14.50 David Cameron has rejected calls to divert some of the foreign aid budget to help flood vicitms, saying "money is not an object" and funds would be made available if needed.
He told LBC radio:
I don’t think it’s needed to go for the aid budget because we will make available the money that’s needed here in Britain. Whatever it takes, money will not be the object.
We are a wealthy country, we have a growing economy. If money is needed for clean-up, money will be made available. If money is needed to help households get back on their feet, that money will be made available. Money is not an object. There's no either or here. It’s not either protecting our overseas aid budget or spending the money here at home. What we need at home will be spent here at home. As prime minister, I will absolutely guarantee that that will be done. I’ve spoken to the Chancellor about this.
Yes of course there are financial constraints, yes of course we still have a big budget deficit but we are a wealthy country, we have a growing economy, we’ve looked after our nations finances carefully. This is an emergency for our country and we will spend the money where the money is needed.
14.30 Police in Somerset are to stop using amphibious vehicles to help reach stranded residents following fears they created too many waves.
A spokesman for Avon and Somerset Police said a Unimog vehicle would instead be used to help transport Muchelney residents.
"Local people wishing to travel to Thorney had raised concerns about waves being created by the amphibious vehicle (BV)," he said.
"The decision was taken to withdraw the BV and the Unimog will operate instead."
14.10 Some communities affected by the floods could be deluged for months, experts have warned.
Groundwater flooding could remain in some areas south of the Thames Valley from Reading to Salisbury until spring, said Andrew McKenzie, hydrogeologist from the British Geological Survey.
Underground layers of water-bearing rock, called aquifers, in the south of England were half full before the persistent, heavy rain began in mid-December, and have since seen "spectacular" rises in groundwater levels, he said.
For instance, groundwater levels in the Chalk aquifer at Tilshead on Salisbury Plain rose by 20 metres in just two weeks, Mr McKenzie said.
These rapid rises triggered some flooding.
The very heavy rains over the New Year raised groundwater levels and we got some localised flooding. But even at that point we weren't sure how widespread that was going to be because there was a lot of empty storage in the aquifers.
The prolonged rain has just changed the situation totally.
We are seeing these extreme rises in groundwater level and that is causing the flood alerts we are seeing. A lot of those are on the Chalk catchment.
The other situation we are seeing with groundwater is that the prolonged rainfall has saturated a lot of superficial aquifers. If you take the Thames for example, in December the water levels in those sands and gravels was relatively low, the rainfall in December was enough to fill those gravel aquifers, they are now full so there is no more capacity for those aquifers to soak up any more water.
We don't know how long the rainfall is going to last but what we do know is that there is a very large quantity of water in aquifers.
What we saw (in the floods) of 2000/2001 was groundwater flooding persisting well into the spring and the last remnants of groundwater flooding finished in about May of 2001.
So we certainly are expecting to see many more months of groundwater issues.
13.45 Flooding is continuing to cause havoc with road and rail travel with many major highways under water and numerous train services delayed or cancelled.
Train lines affected include:
- Services out of Paddington to Berkshire, Oxfordshire, the West Country and Wales
- Staines and Windsor & Eton Riverside stations, with replacement bus services roads unable to call at Wraysbury, Sunnymeads and Datchetdue to flooding
- Train services between Hastings in East Sussex and London's Charing Cross and Cannon Street stations were being disrupted by three landslips with the section of line between Wadhurst and Battle in East Sussex being closed. It is not expected to open before next Monday
- Another landslip, at Oxted in Surrey was affecting trains running between East Grinstead/Uckfield in West Sussex and London's Victoria and London Bridge stations, with no trains able to operate between between Woldingham and Oxted
- South west England train services will be affected for around six weeks by the devastating damage to lines at Dawlish in Devon
- No trains are running between Exeter St Davids and Newton Abbotin Devon with buses replacing trains. The line between Exeter St Davids and Newton Abbot is not expected to reopen until March 18 at the earliest
- In the West Midlands, flooding between Bromsgrove and Barnt Greenwas delaying rail services operated by the London Midland and CrossCountry train companies
Roads affected include:
- Thames Valley towns such as Staines, Runnymede, Henley-on-Thames and Cookham all had streets under water in places, while many routes in Somerset remained unpassable
- Other areas with flooded roads included the cities of Oxford andWorcester, Purley in south London, Wrexham in north Wales, the A29 at Shripney in West Sussex, the A32 in Hampshire, various roads inNorfolk and Suffolk and the A4113 in Herefordshire
- In Derbyshire and Cheshire, snow closed some major routes, including the A54 between Bosley and Buxton and the sections of theA57 Snake Pass in Glossop
- A section of the A6187 Winnats Pass in Castleton in Derbyshire was closed due to snow
- Snow also led to hazardous driving conditions on the A1 in Lincolnshire between Colsterworth and Winthorpe
13.15 However, not everyone was pleased to see Mr Miliband in Berkshire.
The Labour leader was accused of visiting a flood-hit village for a “photo opportunity”.
Alok Sharma, the Conservative MP for Reading West, tackled the Labour leader as he visited victims of the flooding in Purley.
In a video filmed by the getreading website, Mr Sharma confronted Mr Miliband and said: “Why are you actually here?”
Mr Sharma said: “The issue Mr Miliband is why are you actually here? Because what I’m hearing from local residents is that actually they’re not interested in people just coming for a photo opportunity, taking about local issues when they don’t know what’s been going on locally. So I wish you’d done a bit of homework before you turned up here.”
Mr Miliband replied: “My suggestion is that we work together because this is not about politics. This is about working together for the people of your constituency, the people across the country who need help.”
He adds: “What I suggest is that you and I go and talk together to the residents as a sign that this isn’t about politics, this is about working together.”
However, Mr Sharma interrupted and said: “I’ve been talking to the residents for quite a while…you should ask them whether they want you here or not.”
Mr Miliband was then taken away by aides.
13.05 Ed Miliband said flood defences should be made a higher priority for Government, even if it costs more money.
Asked during a visit to Wraysbury whether he would spend more on defences, Mr Miliband told the BBC:
Yes. It's clear - and it was clear from the Pitt Report that was commissioned after the 2007 floods that happened under the last Labour government - that more needed to be done on flood defences.
We can't attribute any one event to climate change, but we know climate change is going to mean we have more events like this - more extreme weather events, more flooding, more storms.
It's clear that flood defence needs to be more of a priority for Government.
Mr Miliband was asked whether he accepted that making flood defence a higher priority would be expensive. He responded:
Yes, but not dealing with it is even more expensive.
If there's one thing we know about the effects of extreme weather, it's that the costs - financial, human and other costs - of not acting are much greater than the costs of acting. It's a totally false economy to say 'Don't act'. The Government's got to realise this and it's got to take the problem seriously.
12.55 A Somerset MP has signed a petition launched by flood victims which calls for Environment Agency chairman Lord Chris Smith to be sacked.
Ian Liddell-Grainger, Conservative MP for Bridgwater and West Somerset, called on the Prime Minister to remove the Labour peer from his £11,000-a-year, two-day-a-week job.
In an extraordinary attack, Mr Liddell-Grainger called Lord Smith "smug, arrogant and self-satisfied" and said he had "bottled out of his moral obligation" to apologise to flood victims.
Mr Liddell-Grainger said he had signed the petition after watching Lord Smith's appearance on Newsnight on Monday, days after he received a frosty reception during a visit to see flooding in Somerset.
How did he come across to you? Smug? Arrogant? Self-satisfied? Or all three?
Did you see any evidence of the merest scintilla of remorse or regret for the devastation the Environment Agency has been party to causing on the Somerset Levels? Because I didn't.
I saw a man who made much of the fact that the Environment Agency had saved more than a million people from flooding. What does he want? A medal? That is what the Environment Agency is supposed to do.
That is what Lord Smith and the senior managers are paid over-handsomely to ensure happens.
12.40 The Weather Channel is predicting Storm Darwin to arrive tomorrow, which will bring with it another 15 to 20mm of rain over Wales and 10 to 15mm across the Southwest and Southern England.
Winds of 70mph could also hit the Southwest.
12.30 S J Cartwright tweets from Worcester:
12.10 Sky News Nick Martin shows the scene in Chertsey while hitching a ride on a fire engine.
12.00 An air ambulance has been mobilised in Wraysbury, Berkshire. Paramedics were seen hurrying out of a helicopter and it is thought they were rushing to help a 71-year-man who was injured during the rescue effort.
11.45 Mr Cameron has announced he will hold a press conference at Downing Street to discuss the floods.
11.25 David Cameron has warned that it would take time to recover from the storms but said ministers would do everything possible. He added:
It is a huge challenge and we have had the wettest start to a year for 250 years, some of the most extreme weather we have seen in our country in decades.
And you can see behind me the effect it’s had. We have to recognise it is going to take time before we get things back to normal.
We are in for the long haul but the government will do everything it can to coordinate the nation’s resources. If money needs to be spent, it will be spent; if resources are required we will provide them; if the military can help, they will be there.
We must do everything but it will take time to put these things right.
11.15 David Cameron has arrived in Dawlish and has been talking to railway workers who are rebuidling train tracks destroyed in recent storms.
Meanwhile Nigel Farage is the latest politician to embark on a visit to flood-hit villages.
10.55 Defence Secretary Philip Hammond has said 1,600 armed forces personnel were ready to assist in efforts to relieve flood-hit areas.
Mr Hammond said there was a combined military and police effort to deliver sandbags, and told angry resident Su Burrows: "I thought they would be here by now."
But he added: "There is no task immediately for the military other than delivering sandbags."
Ms Burrows explained how villagers had been working for 48 hours evacuating people, "risking our own lives going into waters that woudl be over my head."
She said: "I'm sorry, I am going to get emotional. There are 100 people of this village currently working together, none of them agents, not one.
"There is not one Environment Agency officer here, they are in an office. They need to be here, they have no idea.
10.45 One resident of Cookham Village, Berkshire tweets:
10.30 Sad tales of homes destroyed and residents' lives thrown into chaos are emerging from communities along the Thames.
One resident in flood-hit Berkshire said he had moved to the village because his previous home was being demolished following October's St Jude storm.
Peter Horner, 56, was living in Hounslow, west London with his 97-year-old mother when their home was badly damaged by a falling tree. They then moved to the village of Wraysbury.
"If they can't blow me up they're trying to drown me," he said.
He said the flooding has left his mother unable to leave their new home because she uses a wheelchair.
"We've got waders to get out but she wouldn't be able to walk," he said. "If we need rescuing she'll need a boat."
Mr Horner praised the community's response to the floods.
"The camaraderie between the people is fantastic. I waded through the water and a resident leaned out the window and offered me a cup of coffee.
"It's bringing people together," he said.
10.15 Wraysbury residents are growing increasingly angry over the handling of the flooding crisis by the Government.
Malcolm Stead, a pensioner, said: "I never saw any help yesterday until lunchtime. That was too late.
"The RSPCA and St John Ambulance were here but I never saw the Environment Agency or the police until lunchtime.
"Everyone is saying 'Where is the Army?"
The 76-year-old added: "They are bringing sandbags in but they don't protect you much, the water will get through them."
Ms Burrows, who is a volunteer flood warden, said the community needed more help from the authorities.
We are running on adrenaline and we don't know how much longer we can keep going
We need big, strong men to help. I'm little. I can't get down these places.
We are tired. We need people who can sort their own rotas out and get people where they need to be.
You're covering an entire village for looting with six officers. These guys can't do this on their own
We have no idea how bad it's going to get. We're preparing for the worse.
10.00 On Monday tearful Wraysbury resident Su Burrows urged David Cammeron to “get his waders on" and come help stricken residents. Here she is talking to Sky News:
Today (11 of February) she has taken on Philip Hammond, the defence secretary, demanding to know why villagers had not been given more assistance.
09.45 Ed Miliband is also keen to be seen out and about talking to victims of the flooding. Here he is in Purley.
09.35 Latest update on rail delays:
- No trains between Porth and Pontypridd until further notice
- Major disruption on First Great Western between London Paddingtonand Reading until further notice because of flooding near Maidenhead
- Major disruption to CrossCountry services between Oxford and Didcot Parkway
- Disruption between Bridgwater and Taunton
- Disruption between Taunton and Plymouth/Penzance
South West Trains, Southeastern and Southern are also operating heavily-curtailed services.
09.20 David Cameron will continue to tour flood-hit areas of the country today in an effort to demonstrate that he has a grip on the crisis with more bad weather set to come.
Mr Cameron has cleared his schedule and postponed his Cabinet meeting until Thursday as he flies by helicopter to meet victims in Dorset, Devon and Cornwall in an attempt to take control of the crisis.
He is expected to return to the Somerset Levels for the second time in less than a week today for an update on progress in clearing water from thousands of flooded homes.
09.10 There are still 16 severe flood warnings in place, 14 in the Southeast along the Thames and two in the Southwest.
08.55 Political correspondent peter Dominiczak reports that Philip Hammond, the Defence Secretary, has been forced to admit that the Government "has got a grip" on the flooding crisis amid growing anger over the handling of the emergency.
Mr Hammond said that the Government was providing enough assistance to flood-hit areas despite claims from locals that they have been "abandoned" in recent weeks.
He said that the "important thing" is that "we're on the ground now".
Mr Hammond also failed to back Lord Smith, the beleaguered chairman of the Environment Agency, who has been heavily criticised for suggesting that people whose homes have been hit by the extreme weather are partly to blame for choosing to live in flood plains.
Mr Hammond told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "Look, the Government has got a grip on this. The emergency services are in the lead and they are properly organised...the military have been mobilised to provide additional support...additional money has been available, equipment has been brought in."
He added: "The assets that are needed from across the nation have been mobilised into the areas affected."
"We're dealing with an enormous force of nature here, vast quantities of water and an unprecedented weather pattern," Mr Hammond added.
08.40 Gordon Rayner, The Telegraph's chief reporter, was in flood-hit Datchet yesterday talking to hepless villages caught up in the crisis. He reports:
For Rob Thurner, it was the innocuous ping of a text message that signalled that disaster was about to strike.
The midnight mobile telephone alert from the Environment Agency told him that flooding was expected in his village of Datchet, Berkshire, and when he awoke on Monday he found the water lapping inches from his front door.
08.30 Good morning and welcome to our live coverage of the flooding crisis that is still gripping Britain.
Yesterday the Environment Agency boss inflamed tensions by saying anyone who buys on a flood plain needs to think about the threat.
Lord Smith said people who bought homes in flood plains need to think about the “risk that that property faces”.
The remarks stoked the mounting anger towards Lord Smith’s agency, which has been criticised for its response to the floods.
Flood-hit residents and MPs demanded that he resign. They described his comments as “out of touch arrogance” and accused him of trying to deflect the blame from his embattled agency.
David Cameron refused to rule out sacking the peer once the flooding crisis is over. But he said everyone must “get on with their jobs” as the emergency continued.
By lunchtime he had evacuated his family by canoe, put his furniture on blocks, sandbagged the front door, and left his house in the lap of the gods.
“I’ve done everything I can,” he said, as he left the house for the last time. “I’m absolutely powerless.”
Mr Thurner, a 46-year-old mobile marketing consultant, bought his wooden canoe on eBay last summer for messing about on the Thames, not thinking it would become his sole means of transport when he decided to take his wife, Sian, and daughters, Beatrix, 12, Scarlet, 10, and Marina, three, to the safety of a relation’s home.
Together with their boxer dog, Ruby, they paddled across the village green with their luggage, not knowing when they might return or what they will find when they do.