Image: Ian Forsyth Image: Ian Forsyth

The total cost of the devastating floods in the north of England could rise as high at £1.5 billion, according to accountancy giant PwC.

With the losses felt by small businesses and insurance firms, PwC initially estimates that the cost is around £900 million - £1.3bn. But with further heavy rainfall forecast in the North West region and the worrying prospect of more damage, the bill "could breach £1.5bn".

PwC expects insurance firms to be hit hardest, having already picked up £700m of the estimated £1bn bill so far.

The Environment Agency has almost 30 of its most severe flood warnings, meaning there is a danger to life, in place in north east and north west England. Across parts of England and Wales, there are 180 flood warnings of varying levels.

With the weather showing few signs of easing, consultancy group IHS believes the floods could reduce the UK's overall economic growth by as much as 0.2 percentage points.

General insurance leader at PwC, Mohammad Khan, said: "The additional damage from Storm Eva and any further damage caused by additional rain will impact relevant insurers' year-end profitability."