Braunton flooded after river defences breached

BBC's Hamish Marshall, in Braunton: ''The shopkeepers are going to be picking up a big bill for this''

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Dozens of properties have been flooded in a Devon village after £1m river defences were "overwhelmed".

The main road through Braunton is under several feet of water as heavy rain led to flooding across the South West.

In Cornwall, about 160 properties have been hit and the Environment Agency has now issued six severe flood warnings - two in Cornwall and four in Devon.

Just before 23:00 GMT on Saturday, Cornwall's chief fire officer tweeted that things were "a bit calmer".

However, he said crews were still out in Helston, Perranporth, Lostwithiel, St Issey and Launceston at properties affected by floods.

First Great Western trains has advised passengers not to travel as lines were closed between Taunton and Plymouth.

The Met Office has an amber warning for more heavy rain across the south-west of England for Saturday and Sunday and for Devon and Cornwall on Monday.

'Absolutely flooded'

The Environment Agency said the River Caen had breached a section of the flood defence in Braunton.

In June, when the defences were completed, the agency said the works meant flooding of the river would be reduced from a one-in-20 chance of occurring in a particular year to one-in-100.

Flood prevention walls, a flood relief culvert and the river was widened during the work.

But chairwoman of Braunton Parish Council Liz Spear said the defences were overwhelmed by the volume of water that hit the town.

Braunton A number of properties have been flooded in Braunton in North Devon

She said: "It's really bad. We had flooding seven years ago, but it was nothing like this."

Mark Ridge, who took over the London Inn earlier this year, said: "We were hoping this weekend would be our bumper weekend, to carry us through January, but it's just killed it now.

"You just can't put words to it how devastated you are - you work hard all year round and this happens three days before Christmas."

Annette Essex, who runs Top'n'Tails pet shop, said: "It was like a torrent of water. It was quite scary because you could hear the swish of the water and the whole road just turned into a river in the space of about 30-40 minutes."

Dozens evacuated

Peter Robinson, the director and founder of the Museum of British Surfing which is in the centre of the village, said: "It happened about four, five years ago, but this time it's really bad. We've had a £1m flood defence system put in, but it didn't hold."

At one stage parts of the village centre were under 3ft of water. Firefighters used pumps to clear 7,000 litres of water a minute from the roads as rain eased.

Analysis

In the early hours the water level increased and the flood defence breached.

Several tonnes of water swept through the high street and it remains in a dip at the bottom of Caen Street.

Despite sandbags being put in place many properties are underwater.

An enormous pump the size of a small car is trying to get the water out of this dip.

Sand bags have been put into the breached area and the water level in the river is dropping.

A severe flood warning has been issued by the Environment Agency for the River Cober At Helston.

Cornwall Fire Service said 190 people were advised to leave their homes shortly after 01:00 GMT amid fears over the level of the River Cober.

During Saturday, fire crews attended incidents at St Austell, Looe, Helston, Hayle, Torpoint, Penzance, Probus, Durgan, Millbrook, St Columb and St Just.

In Lostwithiel 195 people were advised to leave their homes, and a rest area was set up in the Community Centre.

In Devon, residents in the village of Colebrook, near Plymouth, were evacuated and in Plympton 15 people were forced to move after the Long Brook burst its bank.

First Great Western has advised rail passengers whose travel is not essential to avoid any journeys west of Taunton in Somerset because of flooding and landslips.

The train operator said road vehicles were being used to transport passengers between Taunton, Exeter and Plymouth, but the service was being hampered by flooded roads.

Seaton near Torpoint Several parts of Cornwall have been badly hit by the flooding

Branch-line services were badly affected on Saturday with no trains running on the Par to Newquay, Exeter St Davids to Barnstaple or Liskeard to Looe lines.

In Dorset there was a significant landslip on the coast for the second day running.

Portland Coastguard said the fall had been reported by its rescue team on the northern part of Swanage Beach.

Earlier several motorists in Dorset had to be rescued from vehicles stuck in flood water.

Meanwhile in Sussex heavy rain is thought to have caused a mudslide which has partially blocked Powdermill Lane at Catsfield.

In total, the Environment Agency has issued more than 90 flood warnings, meaning flooding is expected, and more than 270 flood alerts, meaning flooding is possible, for England and Wales.

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