FloodING has left Christmas plans in tatters for people who have been forced out of their homes by the festive washout.
Forecasters were predicting more downpours overnight after vast areas of the UK were lashed with high winds and rain over the weekend.
North Yorkshire escaped the worst of the flooding but firefighters were handing out sandbags in Saxon, near Tadcaster, where rising water was threatening a number of homes and businesses on Saturday.
Fire crews also had to rescue drivers whose vehicles got stuck in floodwater at Stamford Bridge, Howsham Bridge and Tollerton.
And eight pumps were in action in and around Malton and neighbouring Old Malton, where acres of fields were under water.
A spokesman for the Environment Agency said the water level in the River Derwent had peaked at four metres, some 80cm down on its highest level in the November floods.
“We now expect the level to drop further over the next two days,” he said last night.
“We are expecting some more light rain but it is not likely to be a problem.”
The agency said more than 400 homes across the UK had flooded since Wednesday. South west England and Wales and north east Scotland, have been hit hardest, with dozens of homes evacuated.
Residents in Braunton, north Devon, where the River Caen twice burst its banks, overwhelming a new £1.2m flood defence scheme, were again placing sandbags outside their homes and businesses last night.
Pub landlady Diane Cohen, 63, said: “If you go into the middle of the village all you can see is people with their belongings out on the pavements, mopping up and cleaning up behind them. It’s like a disaster zone.”
There was a similar picture in Stoke Canon, near Exeter, after the River Exe also burst its banks.
The Environment Agency said 20 properties had flooded and people from 25 homes had been moved to safety.
Homes in north east Scotland were also evacuated because of flooding while torrential rain in Wales brought down two tonnes of mud and rock into the village of Ystalyfera, near Swansea.
Terrace houses were also evacuated in Pontypridd when a 20ft wall collapsed.
Flooding Minister Richard Benyon said: “It’s terrible to have your home or business flooded at any time of year but for the families affected it’s especially distressing for it to happen during the Christmas season.
“I would like to thank the Environment Agency and the emergency services who are working tirelessly on the ground.”
A woman was rescued in a “heroic” effort by a lifeboat team in Umberleigh, Devon, after clinging on to the branches of a tree for 50 minutes. She was spotted by a police helicopter using thermal imaging equipment after she was swept away from her car.
Another woman also had a lucky escape after being swept away in her car in Llancarfan, in the Vale of Glamorgan. She was saved from the vehicle just moments before her car was washed under the bridge and filled with water.
The flooding has brought widespread travel disruption as water engulfed train lines near Exeter, Devon and dozens of minor roads flooded as swathes of countryside remain under water.
The Met Office yesterday issued a yellow warning for rain on Christmas Day, covering Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly, Devon and Somerset.
Tony Conlan, a forecaster with Meteogroup, the weather division of the Press Association, said while the rain would not be as heavy as that which has already fallen, it would be landing in areas already saturated with water.
He said: “We certainly haven’t heard the last of the flooding stories. There is no sign of settled weather on the way for at least the next week.”
A severe flood warning – meaning there is “danger to life” – remained in place for the River Cober at Helston in Cornwall last night. A further 427 flood warnings and alerts were also still in force, mainly in the south west and the Midlands.