Severe flood warnings with a threat of “danger to life” have been issued as river levels rise following a month’s rainfall in 24 hours in parts of northern England.
Dozens of people have been rescued or forced to evacuate their homes, while others were trapped overnight at a shopping centre.
Motorists and rail users have also been urged to check for any traffic issues or cancellations due to flooding.
The Environment Agency has urged people to stay away from swollen rivers – with the flood warnings affecting the River Don.
Sky’s Sally Lockwood, who is in Doncaster, said the latest recording showed the River Don in the area had risen to 6.29m – the average is between 0.2m and 3.6m.
The five severe flood warnings affect the River Don at Barnby Dun, Kirk Bramwith, Kirk Sandall, South Bramwith and Willow Bridge Caravan Site.
In addition, some 111 flood warnings – meaning immediate action is required – are in place, most of them in Yorkshire, Greater Manchester, Derbyshire and Lincolnshire.
Residents in affected areas have been told that homes and businesses could flood, fast-flowing water could endanger lives, and some communities could be cut off.
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Doncaster Council warned some residents to evacuate their homes because the River Don was breaching its banks near St Oswald Church at Kirk Sandall.
The council tweeted: “There is a Severe Flood Warning in place for Sandal Grove, Old Kirk Sandall. Residents in these areas are advised to evacuate immediately.”
Website River Levels UK suggests the river is at its highest ever level at Sprotbrough at 4.573m. The previous record it said was 3.49m on 7 July, 2012.
Derbyshire Police warned motorists against moving signs where roads have been shut “or attempt to use these routes”.
In Mansfield, 35 homes were evacuated as a precaution after a mudslide, and in Sheffield a major incident was declared by the city council after the River Don burst its banks in some areas, flooding businesses, car parks and roads.
Farooq Sabir , who owns an off licence in Sheffield, said there was not much he could save as his business was flooded within minutes.
He told Sky News he was “knee high in water” and “trying to salvage anything was just impossible”.
At Meadowhall, near Sheffield, hundreds of people woke to find the streets were still flooded in areas after they were forced to spend the night at the busy shopping centre.
Images posted on social media overnight by shoppers and staff stranded at the complex showed them bedding down for the night wherever they could on chairs and benches.
Hannah Crossley, who was at the centre, said she had watched water levels rise until they were “centimetres away from flooding over the wall”.
Luke Turner, who also works at Meadowhall, said he was unable to drive home because the staff car park was flooded.
“For safety reasons the police are keeping us inside Meadowhall. Everyone has been helpful. There are drinks knocking around, coats, covers to keep us warm. It’s quite a good atmosphere, but a bad situation.”
Saskia Hazelwood, 17, a student at New College Doncaster, was there with friends for the Meadowhall Christmas Live concert – which was cancelled – and said her father tried to drive out to get them but was forced to turn back because the roads were closed.
“Our trains were then cancelled so we went to get food, then spoke to the police and security and they told us it was unsafe to leave and there was no way of getting in or out, so we instantly started panicking,” she said.
“We went into Primark and all bought spare clothes and we bought food and drinks to keep us going throughout the night.
“We were in M&S for a while on the sofa’s until they closed the store and we were then moved to the Oasis food quarter. We were there until 7am.
“I understand the flooding was dangerous but a lot more could’ve been done, and they could’ve been a lot more clearer about the situation… as a lot of people were confused and asking a lot of questions.”
The shopping complex said on its website that it planned to open for business as normal at 10am, but urged visitors to check for any ongoing traffic issues in the area, adding Meadowhall Road remains closed.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson tweeted: “Awful to see the terrible flooding across the North of England. Thank you to the emergency staff & volunteers helping families through this difficult time.”
Late last night, an Environment Agency spokesperson said: “We are continuing to work closely with local authorities to reduce the risk of flooding.
“Our field teams have been ensuring flood defences can fully operate and deploying temporary flood barriers to help protect people and property.
“We advise people to stay away from swollen rivers and not to walk or drive through floodwater as just 30cm of flowing water is enough to move your car.”
In Doncaster, South Yorkshire Police warned the public that the flooding was causing “significant issues”, with the force telling locals not to drive or leave their properties unless it is necessary.
Northern Rail has issued “do not travel” advice for customers on several routes – with flooding closing lines between Sheffield and Gainsborough, Sheffield and Lincoln, and Hebden Bridge and Manchester Victoria.
Around 25 homes in Worksop, Nottinghamshire, were also evacuated due to the risk of flooding.
Damien West, head of prevention and protection at Nottinghamshire Fire and Rescue Service, tweeted: “In Worksop with crews who are working tirelessly to rescue a large number of people from flooded premises. A very long, cold and hard working night.”
The chief executive of Timpson, the shoe repairs and key cutting high street firm, said its shops in the town were under water following the heavy rain and will be closed until next week.
James Timpson tweeted: “I’ve spoken to the team to arrange shop fitters to get there ASAP.”
According to the Met Office, half of the average rainfall for the whole of November fell in parts of the Midlands and Yorkshire on Thursday alone – with more rain overnight.
By 5pm on Thursday, Sheffield had seen 47.2mm of rainfall, while Emley Moor was hit by 40mm.
Rainfall could reach 100mm by this morning, according to forecaster Craig Snell.
Sky’s North of England correspondent, Katerina Vittozzi, who is in Sheffield, said: “The real concern is how long will the floodwater continue to rise even after the rain has stopped.
“The damage already has been quite significant – there are already a number of submerged cars, and some say their businesses are knee-deep in water.
“Residents who have been unable to get home have been sheltered in Sheffield Town Hall, and there are similar setups in other northern towns that have been affected.”