Heavy rain causes flooding in west of England

media captionHeavy rain caused flooding and travel problems across much of Somerset and Bristol

Heavy rain has caused flooding and travel problems across much of Somerset and Bristol.

The Environment Agency issued flood warnings and many roads were submerged.

Rail services between Taunton, Bristol and Gloucester were badly affected with First Great Western asking passengers not to travel unless necessary.

BBC weatherman Ian Fergusson warned of strong winds, up to 70mph in some areas, and further rain on Thursday, leading to "dangerous conditions".

The fire service said it attended more than 50 flood incidents and called on motorists not to attempt to drive through flood water.

A spokesman said 18 rescues had involved people attempting to drive through floods and one had involved two people trying to rescue a pet.

In total, Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue has received more than 300 calls for help since 02:00 GMT.

Schools shut

image captionThe River Parrett is "usually a river, not a lake", said Marc Fuller

Avon Fire and Rescue said it had dealt with a "large volume of calls", with North Somerset being the most affected area.

They also rescued a woman in labour trapped in her home in Stowey Bottom in Bishop Sutton, Somerset.

"She was then transferred safely to an ambulance and taken to the Royal United Hospital in Bath," said a service spokesman.

Seventeen schools in Somerset were closed and some school buses were cancelled.

Many of Somerset's major roads were affected by flood water, including the A37, A39 and A4.

Roads in Bristol and South Gloucestershire were also closed because of flooding.

'Wrong conclusions'

Harvey Siggs, the councillor responsible for transport at Somerset County Council, said he had "gangs out all over the place, doing their best" to clear the water.

"It's not about cutbacks, it was about a massive amount of water. It's very sad when people immediately jump to the wrong conclusions," he added.

Bus services in both Bristol and Somerset were either cancelled or diverted.

First Bus said Henbury Ford in Bristol was closed while many services were affected in Somerset.

Flood warnings were put in place for many rivers in Somerset including the Axe, Tone, Chew and Brue.

On Aller Moor, the River Parrett burst its banks and looked more like a lake than a river, Marc Fuller said on Twitter.

Roy Worth, from Minehead, had to abandon his car because of flooding on the A39 at Billbrook where the water went up to his knees.

"The roads are very bad. They're the worst I've ever seen them and I've lived here nearly 12 years," he said.

media captionRoad and rail travel have been affected by heavy rain

Berry's Coaches has cancelled all of its school bus services because of flooding on lanes.

Managing director Stuart Berry said the flooding on the roads was as bad as he had ever known it.

"There are floods where you wouldn't normally expect them, there are parts of Taunton flooded so you can't get to where you're trying to get to," he said.

Farmer John Hebditch, from North Curry, said all the ditches and streams in his fields had flooded to a "considerable depth".

"This morning when I went out, I couldn't get down to the other farm we had to get a tractor. It was just about at the top of the tyres, it was lapping on the doors of the cab.

"We're used to having to adapt to the weather... I've been farming for 40 years and this is the worst time I can remember."

Flood water at the post office in North Curry was about a foot deep, meaning all of the stock is ruined.

Owner Noel Prosser claimed it was because the main drain in the centre of the village was blocked.

'Torrent' of water

Taunton Deane Borough Council is clearing the drain and the water is starting to go down.

image captionVivary Park in Taunton, Somerset, is likely to be closed for days following 'severe flooding'

The borough council also said the town's Vivary Park is likely to be closed for days following "severe flooding" in the wake of torrential rain.

"The closures are unprecedented and the latest flooding is worse than in the spring," said a spokesman.

"Neighbouring Taunton Deane Cricket Club is also under water. Council staff will monitor water levels in the park and reopen it as soon as it is possible."

In Portbury, near Bristol, villagers were trying to save the village hall from a "torrent" of flood water, according to BBC reporter Nigel Dando.

A full meeting of Somerset County Council was cancelled because of the weather conditions.

A race meeting at Wincanton on Thursday has also been cancelled.

Despite the bad weather, EDF Energy said it was "business as normal" at Hinkley Point B power station in west Somerset.

"The power station site itself has not been affected by the flooding seen elsewhere locally," said a spokesman.

"We are keeping the weather situation under review, but are satisfied that we have robust plans in place to ensure the safety of our personnel and plant.

"We do not anticipate anything other than business as normal even if further rain arrives over the next few days."

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