South West flooding red alert is downgraded to amber

The BBC's Andrew Plant reports from deluged Devon

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Parts of the South West have experienced severe flooding following torrential rain.

The Met Office issued a red warning from midnight on Friday until 18:00 BST on Saturday but this has now been downgraded to amber.

A month's worth of rain - up to 80mm - fell in the past 24 hours and more bad weather has been forecast.

The Met Office said people should prepare for flooding and take care when travelling.

The Environment Agency has issued 39 flood warnings, 33 flood alerts and one Severe Flood Warning for low lying properties and roads around Stoney Bridge and Castle Hill in Axminster which signals "severe flooding" and "danger to life" after 100mm of rain fell.

Analysis

The River Yealm was expected to flood, but getting there was a problem.

I had to turn my car around at Avonwick, Ugborough and Bittaford as I tried to get to the story.

When I arrived a road was partly flooded and river levels were high. Some people were trying to protect their properties. Everyone was worried about high tide.

A decision was taken to close Torr Bridge fearing it might collapse, cutting one side of the village off from the other.

Along the river 40 properties and 75 people were affected, although everyone was accounted for.

When the water levels dropped the bridge was judged to be safe.

Earlier on Saturday there was a Severe Flood Warning in place for the River Yealm from Cornwood to Yealmpton

Emergency services were brought in to Yealmpton amid concerns the bridge might collapse and a number of people were evacuated from their properties by boat.

Torr Bridge, Yealmpton Torr Bridge in Yealmpton was closed for a while over concerns it could collapse

Sandbags were earlier put out to increase the height of existing flood defences to help keep the river within its channel, but they were breached by the sheer volume of water.

The river reached a record high of 7.5ft (2.2 metres).

Pumps were deployed by the Environment Agency and teams were on hand to help emergency services clear flood water from properties.

Richard Creswell, director of the South West for the Environment Agency, said a month's worth of rain fell on the Yealmpton and Yealm Bridge area in just over 12 hours.

"The river had also come up to its highest level for 60 to 70 years. This was a really significant event," he said.

"The rain just overwhelmed the defences and unfortunately properties have been flooded, but thankfully no one has been hurt."

Mr Coates from Aveton Gifford in the South Hams said several cars had been swept away from the low lying car park on the edge of the village.

He said: "We've lost two or three cars already which had been moved by the weight of the water coming down."

Carrie from Haberton Ford told BBC Radio Devon: "We've just had a rescue mission. We heard cries from a shed which had goats in it. We've managed to rescue four, three of them are dead.

"We have a dam above the village and now it's flooding over the road and cars are having difficulty."

Dartmoor Zoo, which is celebrating its 5th birthday, said its main gravel path had been "destroyed" causing about £2,000 worth of damage.

Analysis

Saturday morning, and the lazy flow of the River Avon in the South Hams of Devon had disappeared.

Banks that held the meandering river from Dartmoor to the sea were no match for the rainfall that sent the river into neighbouring fields and turned the river valley into a lake.

The village of Aveton Gifford, on the river's eastern bank, was hit with the full force of the deluge as a stream turned into a torrent.

Cars that had been parked in the Memorial Hall car park were floating and were pulled clear by a local builder's digger before they could make the situation worse.

The deluge left the hall and a number of houses under two inches of water.

In Cornwall, fire crews were called to properties in Bugle which had been affected by flooding in the early hours of the morning and to a flooded property in Roscroggan.

Flooding was also reported in the Wheal Rose area of Redruth.

The Environment Agency has encouraged people to check its website, Twitter feed and Facebook pages and its flood line service on 0845 9881188 can also provide advice.

It said it had mobilised teams to operate flood defences, clear any river blockages and closely monitor river levels.

It said it had contacted 142 campsites throughout Cornwall, Devon and Dorset to give advice.

Devon County Council said it was monitoring weather conditions and had "resources in place to deal with any events if necessary".

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