Desperate flood victims will have a brief respite from the downpours today, but high spring tides and yet more heavy rain in the coming days mean their plight will continue for some time.

People in Somerset are at their wits' end after seeing their communities submerged under several inches of stagnant floodwater for more than a month.

Millions of gallons are being pumped away every day, but with rivers instead of roads and lakes where there were once fields on the Somerset Levels, their misery is far from over.

Environment Secretary Owen Paterson has promised that "everything possible is being done", but concerned residents are redoubling their demands for overflowing rivers to be dredged.

Forecasters are predicting a break in the bad weather today, but experts at the Met Office have issued severe weather warnings of winds of up to 80mph and heavy rain of up to 30mm (1.2in) for the South West, southern England, south Wales and Northern Ireland from tomorrow until Wednesday.

As of this morning the EA had three severe flood warnings, warning of danger to life, in place around the River Severn in the Midlands, along with 114 less severe flood warnings, caused by high tides and swollen rivers.

Significant disruption is predicted for much of the coast of Wales and south-west England, and parts of south east England, the north west and the Yorkshire and Hull coast will also be affected by wind, rain and high tides.

Yesterday scientists found that dirty floodwaters contained high levels of bacteria, which officials warned could be a danger to public health.

The tests, by microbiologists from the University of Reading on waters in Moorlands, Somerset, found 60,000 to 70,000 bacteria per 100 millilitres.

According to the World Health Organisation agricultural water should have no more than 1,000 bacteria per 100 millilitres.

Microbiologist Nathaniel Storey, who carried out the research, said the results were unsurprising given the extent of the flooding, and predicted it would take two or three months for bacteria levels to drop significantly.

Debbie Stark, a consultant with Public Health England's Devon, Cornwall and Somerset Centre, said: "It is unsurprising that samples of flood water have demonstrated the presence of bacteria normally found outside. This should not be compared to bathing or drinking water. Tap water is unaffected."

Ian Liddell-Grainger, Conservative MP for Bridgwater in Somerset, hit out at the Environment Agency (EA) for what he described as its failure to carry out dredging, and called on the Government to hand over money that would bring a reprieve to beleaguered communities.

He said: "They (the Environment Agency) need to dredge these rivers, stop spending money - £31 million - on bird sanctuaries and spend £5 million, that's all we want, to sort this out.

Elsewhere, 10 people had to be rescued after a bus was hit by a large wave in west Wales yesterday.

Milford Haven Coastguard was contacted just after 7pm with reports the bus was stuck on the seafront, having been hit by a large wave and was surrounded by water near Newgale.

In Limerick in the Republic of Ireland, dozens of people had to be rescued from their homes after the River Shannon burst its banks.