Ministers have held emergency meetings after heavy rainfall brought unprecedented water levels to the North West of England, overtopping flood defences, cutting power and disrupting travel.
Environment secretary Elizabeth Truss chaired a Cabinet Office Briefing Room (Cobr) summit to form a response to the chaos wrought by Storm Desmond.
Rivers across Cumbria reached record levels, with the River Eden rising to 6.2m on Saturday evening.
A sub-station in Lancaster was flooded, and a section of the West Coast Main Line was closed.
More than 1km of temporary flood defences have been put in place, and pumps installed.
A military operations centre is coordinating a response from 350 members of the Armed Forces. Equipment including a Chinook helicopter is available.
Truss said: “Our flood defences and the swift actions of emergency services have protected thousands of properties across the country but unprecedented levels of rainfall mean that the water in some areas has risen to levels never seen before. That has meant that while flood defences have delayed and reduced the impact, we have seen some water overtopping defences in places.
“Our thoughts are with those communities affected by this devastating flooding. We are expecting upwards of 2,000 homes and businesses will have been flooded. Some areas are experiencing power cuts while others are difficult to reach because of severe disruption to travel.”