London (AFP) – Parts of southern England have seen the wettest January since records began in 1910, figures showed on Thursday, as the army was called in to help one flooded area.
A swathe of England stretching from Devon in the southwest to Kent in the southeast has already experienced twice the average rainfall for the month, figures from the Met Office national weather service showed, with more on the way this weekend.
The army was preparing to deploy to one part of the largely rural county of Somerset to help the residents of villages cut off by the worst flooding there for 20 years.
Southeast and central southern England have had more than twice their average rainfall, with a record 175.2 millimetres (6.9 inches) falling between January 1 and January 28, beating the previous record of 158.2 millimetres for the month set in 1988.
But Britain as a whole has had an unusually sodden January.
The Met Office said 164.6 millimetres of rain had fallen so far in January across the entire country, which was 35 percent above the long-term average.
More heavy rain is forecast from Friday, which would exacerbate the situation in areas already struggling with floods.
The weather has left some areas badly affected by flooding, with 65 square kilometres (25 square miles) of the Somerset Levels underwater for a month.
The government has given the go-ahead for the army to help villages there cut off by the floods and specialist vehicles are being brought in so troops can deliver food, transport residents and deliver sandbags.
The Ministry of Defence is deploying military planners to help the local council and a small number of soldiers arrived on the ground on Thursday.