Major incident declared over South West storm threat

Lamorna Cove, Cornwall
Image caption Severe flood warnings are the highest category issued by the Environment Agency

A major incident has been declared as waves of more than 30ft (10m) are predicted to hit the coasts of Devon, Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly on Friday morning.

Strong winds and high tides have also led to several severe flood warnings being issued by the Environment Agency, indicating a possible danger to life.

Devon and Cornwall Police said additional officers were on duty.

Firefighters, who were due to strike, may call off their action.

The Fire Brigades' Union (FBU) said discussions were taking place and it was monitoring the Environment Agency's information about the threat of flooding.

Recall to duty

FBU members were due to take industrial action between 06:30 and 08:30 GMT as part of their ongoing dispute with managers over pension changes.

There is an agreement that striking firefighters can be recalled to duty, on a voluntary basis, in the event of a major incident that includes a serious risk to public safety.

An emergency management centre was due to open in Truro, Cornwall, at midnight.

Two people died earlier this week - a woman in north Devon and a man in Cornwall - after they were swept out to sea in stormy conditions.

The Environment Agency said people should protect themselves and their belongings, but should not put themselves in danger.

"The one piece of advice, given the fatalities we've had recently, I'd give is don't get close to the coast," area manager Alan Burrows told BBC News.

Image caption People in coastal areas are being advised to protect their properties as best they can without putting themselves in danger

"Keep away and look from a distance. We've had wave watchers getting too close and it's really dangerous."

In Cornwall, Falmouth Coastguard said a man, who is believed to have been watching the surf, managed to escape from his car shortly before it was washed into the sea at East Portholland, near Portscatho. He was not injured.

Rest centres will also be set up across the region to accommodate people who are flooded or have to leave their homes.

Major incidents have been declared by Devon and Cornwall Police and the Isles of Scilly Council.

Supt Chris Singer said it was potentially a situation where resources could become overwhelmed.

"We all need to work together to make sure we keep the residents of Devon, Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly safe," he said.

In the Isles of Scilly, the council said its staff would be on call to respond to any emergencies and a rest centre would be set up for people needing shelter.

It said in order to minimise the effects of the weather, all drains had been cleared and extra sandbags were ready to be deployed if required.

The latest forecast from the Met Office is predicting up to 10mm (0.5in) of rainfall could hit the region in the early hours.

High spring tides and winds of up to 65mph are also forecast, resulting in high waves.

Cornwall Council said waves could "over-top" exposed coastal locations and promenades and there could be possible flooding to properties and low-lying land.

Image caption People in coastal areas, including Looe in Cornwall, are doing what they can to protect their properties

The Environment Agency said recent heavy rain, saturated ground and high river levels meant there was also an increased risk of rivers flooding.

Pete Fox, head of strategy at the agency, said: "We are expecting flooding along the west and south coasts of England and Wales, due to a combination of strong winds, large waves and high tides, from the early hours of Friday and into the weekend."

The Met Office said a combination of lowering pressure and high tides, together with already high levels of ground saturation, would bring the risk of flooding.

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