North-west England and Wales badly hit by floods from Storm Christoph

Severe flood warnings remained in place in north-west England and Wales on Thursday evening following a tumultuous 24 hours in which hundreds of people were evacuated from their homes, and the body of a man was recovered from a river in Cardiff.

Emergency crews including specialist divers found the man in the River Taff after being alerted by a member of the public. It was not clear how the man died and if the death was storm-related. South Wales police said they were investigating.

In England, Cheshire bore the brunt of Storm Christoph. Much of Northwich town centre was under water, and residents of two Northwich care homes were evacuated by dingy and taken to hotels in what the local council said was “a safe and socially distanced manner”. There were also evacuations in Warrington, Chester, Ellesmere Port and Tattenhall.

Twenty-one people were rescued by boat from Lea Court nursing home in Warrington by Cheshire fire and rescue. Many roads in the county remained blocked by flood water on Thursday evening.

There had been fears that thousands of homes in south Manchester would be inundated by the River Mersey in the early hours of Thursday morning, but flood defences held up.

On a visit to Withington golf club in the Didsbury/Northenden area of Manchester, Boris Johnson said recent improvements to the region’s flood defences had averted a much worse situation.

“We’ve put £60m into the Greater Manchester area’s flood defences and there’s another £20m on the way,” Johnson said. “Here in Didsbury they’ve managed to protect 10,000 homes by what they’ve done.”

Didsbury central mosque provided shelter in its prayer hall for uprooted households. “Praise Allah that the floods weren’t as bad as people feared and no one in the area has been reported missing,” said the mosque’s receptionist, Abdul Sakkah. “Only three people came in the end but we had a big hall in which to provide shelter for up to 155, and we provided breakfast and hot drinks for those who stayed overnight.”

Almost 170 flood warnings were in place across England on Thursday evening, with three “severe” warnings – signalling danger to life – issued for parts of the north-west.

Two were outstanding on the River Bollin – one at Little Bollington, on the border of Greater Manchester and Cheshire, and the other at Heatley near Lymm in Cheshire.

A severe flood warning was issued for the English River Dee at Farndon, on the English side of the Welsh border, where water levels were expected to peak on Thursday evening, according to the Environment Agency.

In Wales, properties were evacuated in Bangor-on-Dee and residents were told not to return despite river levels slowly dropping on Thursday afternoon.

Mid and West Wales fire and rescue said it had attended more than 100 flooding-related incidents and its swift water rescue teams had retrieved 13 people from vehicles in flood water.

In Wrexham, north Wales, emergency services worked overnight to prevent flood water from causing damage at an industrial estate where a crucial part of the manufacture of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine takes place. Wockhardt UK, which has the UK government contract to “fill finish” the Covid vaccines, said no vaccines had been damaged or lost.

A large number of properties in the Skewen area of Neath, south Wales, were evacuated, according to Neath Port Talbot council, which urged people to avoid the area. Homes were flooded in Knighton and Borth, in mid Wales, and Crickhowell, in south Wales.

Debbie Hollingworth, a full-time carer in Ruthin, north Wales, said the ground floor of her cottage had been flooded with 45cm (18ins) of water.

“I didn’t think to put a mask on as it all happened so quickly and I was just trying to work out what to save. When I saw the fire service rescue team were all wearing masks, I thought: oh god, I should’ve put mine on,” she said. “I went to my sister’s who we are in a bubble with, but unfortunately she is also in a flood risk area so we will have to get emergency accommodation if there’s any more [flooding].

“It’s been a nightmare but the community has come together and displayed great spirit. Local people donated two-tonne sandbags and people were posting on the local Facebook group offering temporary accommodation.”

The Met Office said 87.8mm rain fell in 24 hours at Capel Curig in Caernarfonshire. Between 19 and 21 January, Aberllefenni in Gwynedd had 188mm of rain, more than average rainfall for Wales for the whole of January, of 156.89mm.

In Denbighshire, north Wales, a bridge over the River Clwyd collapsed. Dozens of roads across Wales were closed. In Carmarthen, south-west Wales, people were treated for the effects of fumes after using a generator to pump water from their homes.

With heavy snowfall across much of Scotland closing roads in the Highlands and the Queensferry crossing near Edinburgh, the Scottish Environment Protection Agency issued four flood alerts across large areas of the north and north-east.

Three yellow weather warnings have been issued by the Met Office, including an ice warning in place until 10am on Friday covering western Scotland, north-west England, Northern Ireland and much of Wales.