UP TO 20 people are believed to be trapped in their homes as rescue efforts continue in Cockermouth.

Police, fire crews, mountain rescue teams, RAF personnel and RAF helicopters are assisting the operation.

Around 50 people have already been rescued from their homes in the area.

The floods have left more than 250 people sheltering in rescue centres in Cockermouth and Keswick.

Cockermouth School is housing 110 evacuees and the Sheep and Wool Centre in the town has 100 people.

Keswick Convention Centre has 36 people and the Skiddaw Hotel and St Joseph’s school in Keswick have eight and five people respectively.

Water levels are continuing to rise in Cockermouth with water levels upwards of 8 feet on the worst affected streets.

Around 200 people were evacuated via helicopter from the Main Street and The Square areas, which were cut off by floodwater.

United Utilities confirmed that around 1,145 homes were without electricity in the town as well as 349 in Keswick.

Environment Agency chairman Lord Chris Smith has joined the Secretary of State Hilary Benn in Cockermouth this morning.

Dinah Cooper, 80, and her son William were saved from their home on Croftside, one of the worst-hit streets in Cockermouth.

Mr Cooper said he had lost all of his possessions but is just glad that his family are safe.

His wife Helen said: “My husband and mother-in-law were stuck in the house but me and my daughter were safe because I went to pick her up from school yesterday and when I came back I couldn’t get back into my house. The whole road was cut off.

”We’ve been so worried because they were stranded there overnight. We’ve got nothing left but the clothes we are standing in but I am so happy to see them safe.”

Michael Dunn, manager of the Bitter End pub in Cockermouth, said the town would not recover until next year.

He said: “This is a tourist town as well so it will hit very hard.

”It has devastated the town. There is a lot of properties in Main Street, private shops, that have had their windows smashed in by the force of the water and by debris in the water.

”There were cars floating down the street.

”It will be a long time before Cockermouth recovers from this.”

Residents in Cockermouth have expressed fears that more rain will quickly lead to more flooding if the already-saturated ground is not given time to recover.

Both rivers that run through the town burst their banks after massive rainfall over the last two days.

Alan Smith said: “The thing with the River Cocker is it can fall as quickly as it can rise.

”It’s come down four foot from last night but the fells are sodden and if we get any more rain, it will just come straight off and into the river and the level will rise again.

”If we have persistent rain like last night and the day before, we will be back to square one.”