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Flood risk rises as more heavy rain is forecast

Storms expected to carry on into this week

Severe flood alerts were issued last night with warnings that lives could be at risk as relentless rain continued to pelt Britain. The three most serious warnings were released by the Environment Agency (EA) for areas in Cornwall where rising river levels were threatening to deluge roads and villages.

On top of these alarms, a further 104 lower-grade, but still serious, flood warnings were issued across western England, as well as another 206 flood "alerts" – early-stage indicators for households and the emergency services to be prepared for possible flooding,

The wet weather is set to continue, with much of the country facing downpours into next week. The severe weather has already resulted in one death and caused 400 properties to flood since Tuesday,

Up to 40mm of rain was expected to fall in some areas by this morning, with winds measuring 70mph on the south coast and 60mph as far inland as London and the East Midlands. The Met Office said heavy rain and strong winds were forecast across all parts of the country, with the heaviest and most persistent downpours in western England and parts of Wales today. Rain is expected to spread northwards and eastwards throughout the day and overnight into Monday.

The EA said that river flooding is likely with the possibility of significant disruption particularly across Devon, north Somerset, Warwickshire, Worcestershire and Wales, with an increased risk of flooding in north-east and north-west England.

"We are expecting more flooding over the weekend," said Paul Mustow, head of the EA's flood incident management, yesterday.

"Our teams have been out around the clock over the last few days to minimise the risks and prepare for flooding. We are continuing to deploy teams across the country to warn communities at risk," he added.

Following the death of a man in Chew Stoke near Bath, after his car was swept away and trapped under a bridge, it was discovered yesterday that three elderly people were rescued from their car on Friday after being swept down a swollen river in Warwickshire, just off the A435, in Coughton Field Lane, in Coughton near Alcester.

The silver Corsa was carried along for more than 500 yards before a local farmer managed to secure the vehicle and bring it to the water's edge, according to the West Midlands Ambulance Service.

Yesterday, there were major road disruptions in Devon, with high levels of surface water forcing many B-roads to close. The county has already seen a deluge since Wednesday, with 92mm of rain falling at Exeter airport in the past few days, more than the average rainfall for the whole of the month.

An eastbound lane on the M4 in Cardiff was closed because of flooding, as were A-roads in Cornwall and Somerset. High winds in and around Mevagissey harbour in Cornwall discouraged fisherman from going out to sea yesterday, with fears being raised that fishing would continue to be affected by potential storm-force winds off the coast.

The AA and the RAC have both had to deal with a higher than usual number of breakdowns. The RAC said it was called to 1,100 more breakdowns on Friday than the same day the previous week, an increase of about 20 per cent nationally.

The one bright spot is that a break in the wet and windy weather is predicted to come next week. A Met Office spokesperson said: "As of Tuesday, things may calm down a little bit. The areas that have experienced the heaviest rainfall will see some drier weather. Ice may be more of an issue in these areas."