A major incident has been declared as Storm Christoph is set to bring widespread flooding to parts of England. The Met Office issued an amber weather warning for rain in Yorkshire and the Humber, the North West, East Midlands and the east of England. The Environment Agency said the combination of heavy rain and snowmelt created a "volatile situation".

Sandbags were laid in at-risk areas, with up to 70mm (2.75in) of rain due. In isolated spots, particularly in the northern Peak District and parts of the southern Pennines, 200mm (7.87in) could be possible.

In the amber warning area, the Met Office said there was a "danger to life" due to fast-flowing or deep floodwater, and told some communities they could be "cut off" by flooded roads. It also predicted delays and cancellations to public transport, with the amber warning in place until 12:00 GMT on Thursday.

Ros Jones, mayor of Doncaster, said key risk areas had been inspected over the past 36 hours, with the delivery of sandbags continuing on Tuesday.

"I do not want people to panic, but flooding is possible so please be prepared," she said.

The Environment Agency issued 16 flood warnings, meaning flooding is expected and immediate action required, covering parts of Yorkshire, Cambridgeshire, Lincolnshire, Leicestershire, Merseyside, Staffordshire and Northamptonshire as of yesterday. A further 110 flood alerts, meaning flooding is possible, were issued across northern England, the Midlands and the east.

Catherine Wright, acting executive director for flood and coastal risk management at the Environment Agency, said: "That rain is falling on very wet ground and so we are very concerned that it's a very volatile situation and we are expecting significant flooding to occur on the back of that weather."

She said the agency would be working with local authorities to help with evacuation efforts should a severe flood warning be issued, adding: "If you do need to evacuate then that is allowed within the Covid rules the government has."

Discussing the different levels of flood warnings, she said: "If you receive a flood alert, please pack valuables like medicines and insurance documents in a bag ready to go.

“If you receive a flood warning, please move valuables and precious possessions upstairs and be ready to turn off gas, electricity and water. If you receive a severe flood warning, which means you will be evacuated, please listen out and take heed of the advice from the local emergency services."

A yellow rain alert is also in place for Wales, Northern Ireland, central and northern England and southern Scotland. This yellow warning extends to the rest of England from Wednesday, with a yellow alert for snow and ice in north east Scotland.

Highways England advised drivers to take extra care on motorways and major A roads, while the RAC breakdown service said motorists should only drive if absolutely necessary.