Record rainfall leaves parts of England under water

After violent December storms put a damper on many people's holiday season, this January was the wettest on record for parts of England.

Met Office figures for January 1-28 show that southeast and central southern England had more than twice the usual amount of rain.

A whopping 175.2 millimeters (nearly 7 inches) of rain fell in that period -- easily submerging the previous record of 158.2 millimeters, set in January 1988.

Final figures for the month have not yet been released, but the totals are expected to go up, since the rain has kept on coming down in many areas.

Meanwhile, southwest England and south Wales had their fifth wettest January since records began in 1910, according to the Met Office, and some areas have suffered dire flooding.

The torrential rain has left villages on the Somerset Levels, a low-lying area of southwest England, under water for almost a month.

The situation is so bad that the government's emergency committee, known as Cobra, has met to discuss what to do.

Cameron: 'Not acceptable'

British Prime Minister David Cameron acknowledged Friday in a piece written for the Western Daily Press, a newspaper published in southwest England, that the government had been slow to act.

"Like everybody across the country I feel enormous sympathy for the people who live on the Somerset Levels and are suffering from the devastating impact of the flooding," he wrote.

"I know that a great deal of work has been done to try and alleviate the situation but it is not acceptable for people to have to live like this almost four weeks later -- and I am not ruling out any option to get this problem sorted out."

Military planners have been sent in to work with local authorities, he said, and a 24-hour pumping operation is now running to try to drain off the excess water from the Somerset Levels.

Local residents have complained that the Environment Agency has neglected to dredge rivers over past years, exacerbating the risk of flooding.

But the Environment Agency said in an online statement Tuesday that "increased dredging of rivers on the Somerset Levels would not have prevented the recent widespread flooding because of the sheer volume of rainfall."

As many as 40 homes and 65 square kilometers of land (25 square miles) are flooded, the agency said.

Local and national newspapers have shown dramatic images of inundated homes, submerged fields and impassable roads, with some residents -- and emergency responders -- forced to use boats to get around.

Flood warnings, flights affected

The sodden month of January may now be over, but the bad weather persists this weekend.

The Environment Agency has warned that high tides and gale force winds could bring more flooding in some coastal areas, and nine severe flood warnings are in place.

At the same time, continued rain may cause river flooding in parts of southern England where the ground is saturated and water levels are already high, the agency said.

Stormy, gale force winds in Ireland have also affected some flights at Dublin Airport. Passengers are advised to check their flight status before traveling, the airport said Saturday.

The Irish Met Office warned that coastal flooding is also likely Saturday for coastal counties in the country's west and south, thanks to the high winds, extremely high seas and very high spring tides.