Devon and Cornwall storm causes 'devastation'

Part of the sea wall in Dawlish was washed away as John Ayres reports

"Devastating" weather in south-west England has seen people evacuated from damaged homes and trapped in cars, boats sunk and railway lines closed.

In Dawlish, Devon, 20 people were evacuated from homes and the sea wall under the main rail line collapsed.

A number of properties in Kingsand in Cornwall were evacuated after it became swamped by huge waves.

Widespread flooding has been reported across the region and councillors said damage would cost millions to repair.

Police in Kingsand said they had to evacuate houses that had been damaged by stones being washed ashore, which smashed windows.

The clock tower was "in a dangerous condition", Cornwall Council said.

Cornwall Council's leader John Pollard said the cost of storm damage was "rising to £10m as we speak".

Newlyn Flooding has been reported in a number of coastal communities, including in Newlyn

Across the region several severe flood warnings, which indicate a possible danger to life, have been issued by the Environment Agency.

It said some coastal defences had been damaged and some river catchments remained "extremely sensitive to any further rainfall".

Flooding was reported in Newlyn, St Mawes Perranporth, Looe, Kingsand, Cawsand, Plymouth, Torcross, Dawlish and Exmouth.

At the scene

What is worrying for many people is that, after some calm on Wednesday afternoon, the winds have been getting up again.

The damage in Dawlish has been quite extraordinary.

The sea wall, which was made of concrete and massive boulders, has been pounded by the waves, and one large stretch of it - I've measured it at 50m - has just gone.

Rail tracks have been left hanging in the air, there is no foundation underneath them, and homes and other buildings have been damaged too.

People here are grabbing on to the fact the community spirit has been remarkable. Police and others have been full of praise for the community in the face of such adversity.

However, there is another high tide due and more weather warnings.

It has been relentless and people are just asking: "When will this end?"

Some residents fear they will have to abandon their homes.

In Porthleven, Cornwall, six boats sank as the outer harbour was breached.

In Millendreath, Cornwall, the coastguard said up to 40 holiday homes were flooded, with about half being occupied.

Fire crews rescued an elderly disabled man from his home and took him to another property in the village.

About 20 properties were evacuated in Torcross in Devon. Locals told the BBC recent storms were the worst for more than 30 years.

Two people were rescued from a vehicle trapped in floodwater in Marine Parade, Dawlish, at about 21:20 GMT on Tuesday.

Up to 150ft (46m) of railway track has been destroyed and Dawlish station has also been damaged, Network Rail added. Nearby homes and other buildings were also damaged.

The main Exeter to Newton Abbot railway line has been closed.

Network Rail estimates damage caused in Dawlish will take "at least" six weeks to rectify.

Limited rail services have resumed between Plymouth and Penzance, with rail replacement transport due to become available from Thursday.

Exeter's Labour MP, Ben Bradshaw, called for the government to look at moving part of the line inland.

He said: "We have now, in the South West, been cut off two years in a row - it has a devastating impact."

A navy bomb squad was dispatched to Exmouth seafront in east Devon to deal with a suspected device found under an ice cream hut.

It was believed to be a smoke grenade unearthed by storms. A 60m (200ft) exclusion zone was put in place.

The railway line at Dawlish in Devon is left hanging in mid-air after storms ripped away supporting ballast, wrecking up to 150ft (46m) of track

Mr Pollard, Cornwall Council leader, has demanded immediate action by the government to repair the storm damage in the region and restore the rail link.

Prime Minister David Cameron announced an extra £100m for flood repairs across the country.

After chairing a meeting of the Cobra emergency committee, he said he had seen "the shocking pictures of the destroyed train line in Dawlish".

He added: "I am determined that while it is out of action the public get a proper alternative service and a solution is found to fix it, as soon as possible."

Winds of up to 92mph (148km/h) were reported in the Isles of Scilly.

Dawlish David Cameron chaired a meeting of the Cobra emergency committee, where the storm damage to the railway line at Dawlish was discussed
Damaged property in Torcross People in Torcross said the storms had been the worst for more than 30 years
Map: Dawlish
Kingsand In Kingsand, the clock tower has been left in a "dangerous condition"

Network Rail engineers said about 100ft (30m) of sea wall in Dawlish had been washed away by the waves.

The events at Dawlish, point to an unprecedented breakdown in service on this railway line.

Network Rail's estimate that the line will be shut for "several weeks" would be the worst closure on this section of railway since Isambard Kingdom Brunel built it in the 1840s.

But the implications for businesses get worse the further west you look.

Plymouth-based companies recently lost the air link to London and St Austell Brewery says it relies on the sleeper train for London business meetings.

This is already reviving the political question of how the sea wall line at Dawlish could be rerouted and, post-financial crisis, nobody has a good answer to how that might be done.

County councillor John Clatworthy said: "I have lived here [Dawlish] for 44 years and I've never known an event like this."

In Topsham, Thomas Burdick said: "You could see people walking down the Strand and the water was up to their waists - a good half metre to a metre deep."

In Porthleven, Michelle Powell, from the Horse and Jockey Bakery, said: "I have never seen it as bad as this in 50 years."

BBC Spotlight reporter Philippa Mina said: "Porthleven's outer harbour has been breached, which means the inner harbour is now at risk."

BBC Radio Cornwall's Donna Birrell said: "It's a desperate situation - teams of men are trying to haul boats out of the water to rescue them.

"There are at least 40 boats at risk - six have sunk already and the sea is thick with debris, including big pieces of granite, driftwood and buoys."

The sunk vessels, including 20ft and 16ft (6m and 4.8m) long boats, sank in "horrific" conditions, resident Mike Pascoe said.

Elsewhere in Cornwall, the county's council said it was concerned about Mullion's sea wall, with ongoing issues at Penzance pier and promenade, and St Mawes' harbour wall.

Porthleven Huge waves have hit Porthleven in south-west Cornwall
Porthleven Six boats sank in Porthleven after the outer harbour was breached
Storm damage at the Waterfront Restaurant, Plymouth Severe weather has battered coastal communities across the South West, including Plymouth
'Roads breaking-up'

Police and councils said they would remain on standby overnight on Wednesday to deal with any problems caused by the weather and British Red Cross volunteers have been supporting people affected.

About 5,000 households in Cornwall and 1,200 in Devon still have their electricity cut off, according to Western Power Distribution.

Overnight on Tuesday, waves smashed the barriers that protect the inner harbour at Porthleven, sinking many vessels

Are you in the flood-affected areas? Have you been left without power? Email us Haveyoursay@bbc.co.uk. Please write Devon storms in subject. At no time should you endanger yourself or others, take any unnecessary risks or infringe any laws.

More on This Story

UK Winter Storms

Related Stories

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites

More England stories

RSS

Features

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.