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Praise for policeman killed in UK floods

By Melissa Gray, CNN
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Body found in flood search
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • More rains forecast for Saturday in northern England but less risk of flooding
  • One police officer killed when swept away on collapsing bridge
  • 11 bridges closed across northern county of Cumbria because of weather
  • Around 1,060 homes were without power Saturday morning

London, England (CNN) -- Forecasters predicted more rain for England's flood-ravaged northwest region Saturday, but said the risk of more flooding was smaller than in recent days and river levels were dropping.

The badly hit town of Cockermouth was starting to dry out after the two rivers it sits on raged through its streets Thursday night and Friday morning. The Rivers Cocker and Derwent reached several feet high in some places, causing furniture on the ground floor to knock into the ceiling, witnesses said.

Business owners were being allowed back into parts of the town Saturday, but water was still standing in the center of town. A group of white geese stood at the water's edge in the middle of the main street, seemingly enjoying the brief sunshine and respite from rain.

The rivers still flowed rapidly through the town Saturday, the brown water barely making it under the supporting arches of the bridges.

A total of 12 bridges were closed across the county of Cumbria, where Cockermouth is located, because of safety fears, Cumbria police said.

One person died in the floods. Cumbria Police Constable Bill Barker was directing drivers off a bridge in the town of Workington when the flood waters destroyed the bridge and washed him away.

Praise for Barker poured in Saturday.

"Bill is a hero who died saving the lives of others," said Cumbria Police Chief Constable Craig Mackey, according to Britain's Press Association.

Prime Minister Gordon Brown said Barker was "a very heroic, very brave man."

Barker's widow, Hazel, said he was her best friend and an "amazing dad" to their four children.

"I have the comfort of knowing that Bill died doing the job he loved, and the fact that he was helping others is just typical Bill," the Press Association quoted her as saying.

Video: Floods devastate British town
Video: Body found in flood search
Video: Floods continue in Cumbria
RELATED TOPICS
  • United Kingdom
  • Scotland
  • Weather

Brown visited Cumbria on Saturday, meeting with police and some of the 75 residents still spending the night in a shelter.

"If there's anything we can do, we will try to do it," he told the evacuees. "We'll try to get you back (home) as quickly as possible."

Some 1,300 homes were still affected by the floods Saturday, whether by flooding, loss of power, or lack of access for their owners, police said.

Wet and windy conditions were forecast for western Britain and southern Scotland, with occasionally heavy rain falling onto already-saturated ground, the Met Office weather service said.

Forecasters predicted 10 to 20 millimeters (0.4 to 0.8 inches) of rain across Cumbria on Saturday, with 30 to 40 millimeters (1.2 to 1.6 inches) in higher areas.

Showers were expected Saturday night as well, the Met Office said.

Britain's Environment Agency had 51 flood warnings in place for England and Wales, and issued a severe flood warning for Cockermouth. It means severe flooding is expected with "extreme danger" to life and property.

"We're not expecting it to be of the same intensity of the last few days -- we're expecting it to move through a lot quicker," Environment Agency spokesman Stuart Brennan told CNN. "Obviously we'll be watching the river levels closely to see if they're responding to the rain, but we do expect their levels to continue to decline over the weekend."

He said residents should be aware that "there is further rain around and to be careful -- don't wade into water because it can still knock you off your feet."

Around 1,060 homes were without power Saturday morning, Cumbria police said.

Cumbria police said there had been an "overwhelming response" to a Facebook site set up for Barker, with more than 12,000 people pledging their support and leaving tributes.

Some on the site suggested the bridge be renamed "Barker's Bridge" in his honor, Cumbria police said.