Large areas of England and Wales are on flood and storm alert as a new storm is poised to hit the south and south-west with winds of up to 80mph.
The flooded Somerset Levels where many residents have already been forced from their homes after weeks of heavy rain remain at the highest risk of continued flooding on Saturday.
The Environment Agency said there was a risk of flooding along the coast of Devon and Dorset from the combination of high tides and high winds.
There are more than 300 low-level flood alerts and nearly 200 medium-risk flood warnings in place across Wales and southern and central England as far north as Hull.
The Met Office issued an amber warning of high winds for the south of England and Wales and yellow rain warnings for the south and west of England and Wales.
“After a short lull, winds will increase from the south-west during the course of Saturday with severe gales affecting coastal districts, bringing gusts of 60-70mph and isolated 80mph at the most exposed locations within the amber warning area. Large waves are also expected to affect south-west facing coasts. Further inland, gusts of 50-60 mph are likely.”
The Met Office warned the public to be prepared for disruption to transport and power supplies, particularly when combined with the effect of heavy rain.
A spokesman for the Ministry of Defence said an additional 1,500 troops were on six hours’ notice to move if required to help victims of new flooding. Several hundred Royal Marines and engineers are already helping in south-west England.
Engineers have strengthened the shore along the railway line at Dawlish in Devon to prevent further damage to the tracks although Cornwall and Plymouth remain cut off from the rest of the rail network. Flybe said it will increase the number of weekday flights between Gatwick and Newquay in Cornwall from three to six after the airport said it would waive fees.
As residents in Somerset have struggled to cope with rising water, police arrested three men on suspicion of stealing fuel from near the cut-off village of Muchelney.
The arrests follow the theft of 600 gallons of domestic heating oil from a farm in Moorland and the theft of two fire service quad bikes from Burrowbridge last week.
Eric Pickles, the local government secretary, has ordered a flood defence repair audit of both Environment Agency defences and private defences after the latest meeting of the government’s emergency committee Cobra on Friday night.
He said: “We continue to make sure every preparation is made before the severe weather expected this weekend and the following days. I ask everyone to remain vigilant and follow the advice being issued by the Environment Agency.
“I want to reassure the country that everything possible is being done to help those communities affected by these terrible storms, and work to be prepared for any further bad weather we may see in the days ahead.”