UPDATED: 1000s evacuated across Cumbria as floods hit
Thousands of people have been rushed to safety as floods have wrought havoc across northern England forcing people in hundreds of homes to flee.
The agency has now said the situation in Cockermouth is 'dire' with some people forced to break through their roofs to escape and emergency services struggling to free everyone.
A police officer from the Cumbrian force is also missing after apparently being washed into the river after a bridge collapsed.
Reports say more than 12 inches of rain have fallen in parts of Cumbria over night (November 19) which, if correct, would be the highest ever recorded.
Flood warnings are also in place in Scotland and Ireland with people forced to leave their homes in both countries.
Heavy rainfall hit areas across the Lake District with 175mm falling between 9pm last night and midday yesterday (19 November).
While the region is bracing for another 100mm of rain predicted to fall over the North West by early Friday.
The Environment Agency's director of flood and coastal risk, Robert Runcie, said: "After persistent heavy rain combined with saturated ground and full rivers across Cumbria, the decision was taken to evacuate residents in towns and villages across the Lake District, before serious flooding.
"Since this morning our officers have been helping emergency services coordinate community groups that are going house-to-house ensuring people were taking precautions and evacuated where necessary.
"These emergency plans were established following the Cumbria floods of 2005 and have worked successfully. The last thing we want is floodwater putting lives at risk."
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