Floods: Woman saved from Devon river

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Media captionAerial footage shows the police rescue in Umberleigh

A woman was "lucky" to survive after she was swept from a stricken car as floods wreaked havoc in the south-west of England.

Vanessa Glover managed to cling to an over-hanging branch as the River Taw burst its banks at Umberleigh in Devon.

Meanwhile more than 20 people had to flee homes near Exeter as flood waters rose and a severe flood warning remains in place in Cornwall.

Travel disruption also continues as a rail junction in Devon is blocked.

Although flood waters were starting to recede during the day, forecasters warned that more rain could bring fresh hazards on Sunday night and into Christmas Eve.

For hundreds of people across Devon and Cornwall, a mopping up exercise was beginning as residents returned to homes which were damaged by rising waters.

Image caption Plastic dams were set up to protect the railway line at Exeter

But for Mrs Glover the floods came close to ending in tragedy.

She and her husband Paul and seven-year-old son Silas became stranded as the River Taw began to rise around their Ford Ranger pick-up in the early hours of Sunday.

Mr Glover and Silas managed to scramble out of the cab into the back of the truck but as Mrs Glover was attempting to follow them, she lost her footing and was swept away.

Mr Glover said: "I never thought I'd see her again. I looked around and she was gone."

She managed to grab branches and hold on against the rushing water for 50 minutes.

A police helicopter using thermal imaging equipment found her about 200 metres away.

Robin Goodlad, from the RNLI, who helped in the rescue, said: "She's extremely lucky. How she managed to hold on in that flow for that amount of time, I have no idea."

Mrs Glover was treated for exposure and her son and husband were rescued from the pick-up by firefighters.

Elsewhere in Devon, 25 people were led to safety by emergency services in Stoke Canon, Exeter, after the River Exe burst its banks.

In Cornwall, a severe flood warning remains in place at Helston, where on Saturday the River Cober flowed into streets and homes.

Meanwhile rail problems were set to continue as part of a junction near Cowley Bridge in Devon has crumbled away under the force of flooding.

The line is the link between London Paddington and Penzance but engineers said the problem could last for five days.

Plastic dams were used to prevent water from reaching a nearby signals box which, if flooded, could have led to several weeks of repairs.

Flooding at Cowley Bridge means trains are unable to run between Tiverton and Exeter.

In other parts of England, an air-sea rescue helicopter from RAF Valley in Anglesey was called on to airlift an elderly woman who fell ill and was trapped by floodwater at Sawley Marina on the river Trent near Long Eaton, Derbyshire.

Flooding in Berkshire caused Reading services on the westbound M4 to close and one lane of the westbound carriageway, causing long delays.

The river Severn is also high but flood defences appear to have succeeded in Bewdley, Kempsey and Upton-upon-Severn.

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