Families evacuated in Cornwall as river rises
Saturday 22 December 2012
Police have evacuated people from their homes in a Cornwall town as rising river levels threaten to flood their properties.
Residents were led to safety in Helston after the River Cober rose rapidly following heavy rainfall.
The Environment Agency said widespread flooding of properties was "imminent", and has a severe flood warning - its highest level, meaning there is a danger to life - in place for St Johns Road, St Johns Close, Coronation Park and Loe Pool in the town.
Cornwall Council said it was opening a rest centre at Epworth Hall in Coinagehall Street, and that fire services in the area were prioritising emergency calls to those where life was at risk.
Fire crews had been called to about 70 flood-related incidents across Cornwall since midnight, the council said.
Crews have attended incidents at St Austell, Lostwithiel, Looe, Helston, Hayle, Torpoint, Penzance, Probus, Durgan, Millbrook, St Columb and St Just.
Large amounts of surface water has been reported on roads in Cornwall as more rain lashes the county.
The A39 at Perranarworthal has been closed due to flooding, Cornwall Council said, while there are reports that the B3247 between Millbrook and Kingsand is impassable.
In a statement Cornwall Council said about 50 properties have been flooded, a number which could rise as heavy rain batters the county until at least mid-morning.
Mr Owens said water levels were still rising in Helston.
He told the BBC five properties were flooded and 15 people went to the emergency rest centre, while others preferred to remain in their home to try to guard them.
The bad weather is far from confined to Cornwall.
The Environment Agency has almost 270 food alerts and 90 flood warnings in place, stretching right across the country, from the South West to the North East
The Met Office is forecasting heavy rain across England and Wales over the coming days, with the heaviest rain expected to fall in Cornwall and Devon, and some parts of Somerset.
The rain will fall on saturated ground, which is expected to lead to surface water and river flooding. There could also be run-off from fields and some flooding of property and roads.
Communities are being urged to keep up to date with the latest information and to stay safe, by staying away from swollen rivers and not attempting to drive through floodwater.
Mike Williams, from the Environment Agency, said: "This is the last weekend before Christmas, so it will be particularly busy with people travelling through the region.
"We would urge people to take extra care when planning their journeys and we aware of the risk of flooding.
"Our teams have been out around the clock to minimise the risks and prepare for flooding.
"People need to keep up to date with the weather forecast and remain prepared for flooding in their area and stay away from dangerous flood water or attempting to drive through it."
Tom Tobler, a forecaster with MeteoGroup, the weather division of the Press Association, said "heavy and persistent" rain would affect almost every part of the UK today, after heavy rain swept the country overnight.
He said: "The South West has seen the worst of it as the rain moved in there during yesterday evening.
"Plymouth has recorded 49mm of rain in the last 12 hours, and across the South West and South Wales there has been 15mm to 30mm fairly widely.
"Cornwall may have another 15mm of rain to come, and it wouldn't take that much to create extra problems. The rain is pretty bad news for that part of the country, but it is going to be a wet day everywhere, really."
A resident who has lived in St John's Close in Helston for 45 years said she was not aware of the flooding until she woke up this morning.
"I woke up this morning to the sound of a pump down on St John's Bridge where I assume workmen are trying to adjust the level of the River Cober," the woman, who did not want to be named, said.
"There is no surface water in the close, the gardens in the houses on the other side of the road may well have a little bit of flooding, but nobody over there seem to be particularly bothered.
"Areas like St John's Road, where there are flats and sheltered housing for the elderly, back on to the River Cober and I understand that is a danger area there, as is also one small area of Penventon Crescent.
"But I think it is a tribute to the water authority that years ago, when I lived here, we did have severe flooding in this close and you would not get out of the end of the close because it was a lake of water, but since they have done so much work here, this close, here at any rate, seems to be fairly dry."
Some residents and holiday-makers have been using buckets to clear water from their gardens and have piled sand bags at their doors and gates to keep the water at bay.
Others have taken precautionary measures such as moving furniture upstairs.
Cornwall Council said that the situation in Helston has calmed, but agencies are on standby in preparation for further downpours of heavy rain which is expected throughout the day.
On its Twitter site the council added that the rest centre at Helston has now closed after the last two people went home.
Fifty miles further north Cornwall Council said there has been a landslide which has cut off a road in the town of Looe.
A council spokeswoman said that Hannafore Road is closed as a result of two fallen trees and a landslide which has covered the road.
Fire and rescue crews have been at the site.
Devon and Cornwall Police said they had a "busy" night following extensive rain across their area.
A spokesman said: "This has again been a significant and challenging event and the emergency services together with partner agencies have worked hard throughout the night and will continue to do so to respond to calls from the public.
"In Cornwall many roads were flooded resulting in a busy night for the emergency services.
"In Helston the river Cober again burst its banks resulting in some properties in St John's Road being flooded and residents evacuated and an emergency rest centre being opened at Epworth Hall in Coinagehall Street.
"In Plymouth up to a dozen roads were closed as a result of flooding but most have since re-opened.
"However the outbound carriageway of the A38 to Marsh Mills remains closed and lane three inbound is also closed.
"In Colebrook seven homes were evacuated and in Plympton 15 people were evacuated after the river Long Brook burst its banks but there was no damage to property.
"Also in Devon, Aveton Gifford saw some properties flooded resulting in a small number of evacuations.
"The heavy rain is now moving away from the area resulting in a short respite before more significant rainfall affects the whole area later today."
Residents across Cornwall are being warned to prepare for further heavy rainfall which is expected from 5pm tonight.
Cornwall Council spokeswoman Trisha Hewitt said: "There is expected to be 30mm of rainfall during a six hour period from 5pm.
"As this is falling on saturated ground, this could cause further flooding in the key areas.
"The fire and rescue high volume pump is still in use in Helston, although the river levels are continuing to drop, this is still an area of concern.
"The Environment Agency are arranging for over pumping to recommence at Loe Bar."
Ms Hewitt said the latest reports suggest more than 10 properties have been affected by flooding in Mevagissey, with around 40 affected in Millbrook.
The Environment Agency has issued four severe flood warnings, all in south-west England.
There was a severe warning for Helston and Lostwithiel in Cornwall, and two for Braunton, Devon.
Football league matches at York and Hartlepool were postponed due to waterlogged pitches.
In the Midlands, the Environment Agency says there are 54 flood alerts and 27 of the more severe flood warnings with big rivers like the Trent and the Severn expected to rise throughout the day.
The rising levels are still as a result of the heavy and persistent rain which fell on Wednesday and Thursday, with between 15mm and 30mm expected across the region today.
An Agency spokesman said: "We also expect some rain on Monday, mainly over Warwickshire, Leicestershire and Powys.
"With the rain falling on already saturated ground and with high river levels, we expect rivers to remain high and some further flood alerts and flood warnings may be issued over the weekend and into the Christmas period.
"We are aware that the rain has already led to some surface water flooding and some disruption.
"With rising river levels, we continue to warn and inform local communities and work together with partners and ask residents to remain prepared and vigilant, in the coming days.
"EA teams in Midlands continue to check on flood defences, clear any river blockages and closely monitor river levels. These teams work around the clock to reduce the risk of flooding."
First-stage flood defences have already gone up in Bewdley, Worcestershire, and at Shrewsbury in Shropshire as a precautionary measure.
The town of Braunton in north Devon has been effectively cut off with homes and shops under water after the River Caen burst its banks.
Surface water began to build as heavy rain battered the south west overnight and residents in the town woke to find Caen Street and the A361 underwater.
Devon and Cornwall Police said "numerous properties" have been affected.
A spokesman added: "The A361 Barnstaple to Braunton road and also the Ilfracombe to Braunton is closed to all traffic. The town is effectively cut off from both Barnstaple and Ilfracombe and numerous properties both houses and businesses are affected.
"The public are advised not to attempt to drive to the town as it is flooded.
"Emergency services are on the scene and taking action to protect properties.
"Additionally, the A396 Tiverton to Exeter road is closed at both Stoke Cannon and Bickleigh as a result of both flooding and a landslip."
Communities in North Yorkshire which were hit by flooding last month were again preparing for the worst as flood warnings were issued across the county.
The River Ouse in central York rose to four metres, affecting riverside properties, the Environment Agency said.
Residents in outlying areas of the city and surrounding villages were also warned they are likely to be flooded.
The Environment Agency said the River Derwent remains high, with localised flooding in Stamford Bridge, and low-lying areas around Hull have also become waterlogged.
Residents have been warned the situation may get worse over the weekend if heavy rain continues.
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