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Woman dies as torrential rain batters the West Country

25 rivers in South-west on 'flood watch' list as water rises as high as four feet

A woman died after falling into a river in Cornwall as the region was hit by torrential rain and flooding over the weekend.

The 60-year-old, who has not yet been identified, fell into the River Seaton in Hessenford at around 8pm on Saturday during a heavy rainstorm. Emergency services were called to the scene and found the woman in the water.

A police dog handler pulled the woman on to the river bank and attempted to resuscitate her before she was airlifted to Derriford Hospital in Plymouth, where she was pronounced dead. According to some reports, she may have slipped while attempting to cross a bridge over the river.

News of the death came as the Met Office issued warnings of severe weather and flooding in the South West, and 25 rivers in the region were put on the Environment Agency's "flood watch" list. Flash floods in some parts of the region caused water levels to rise as high as four feet.

Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue were called to Exton, near Exeter, on Saturday evening to pump water from a road where it reached the tops of car roofs. Crews were also called to several incidents in the Plymouth area where vehicles had become stuck in floodwater.

Three people had to be rescued from their car in Devonport, while a driver in Sparkwell had to climb onto the roof of his van after it became trapped in water more than three feet deep.

In Cumbria, the flood recovery effort continued as the army began transporting sections of a new 110-tonne footbridge for the town of Workington, which was split in two after its bridges were rendered impassable by flooding a week ago.

The Royal Logistics Corps moved the parts from a holding base at Halton Camp, Lancashire, and the Royal Engineers will lay 4,000 tons of rock base foundations. Some 200 soldiers are involved in the construction of the bridge, which will be positioned 300m east of the Calva Bridge, which was closed because of safety fears. The army and Cumbria County Council hope to open the crossing to the public by the weekend.

Major Phillip Curtis of the 42nd (North West) Brigade told the BBC yesterday: "At the moment we are aiming to have the bridge finished by next weekend to try and hit the school run on Monday. The site is throwing up challenges and it is a complex build but we hope that is the target we will be hitting."

The 51m bridge is aimed at reconnecting the two halves of Worthington, which were divided when the River Derwent flooded on 20 November, causing the town's A597 Northside Bridge and a footbridge to collapse and leaving the Calva Bridge unstable.

Motorists have been warned by Cumbria County Council not to ignore safety blockades at the Calva crossing, after several drivers were caught on CCTV removing barriers and signs from the site in order to drive across the bridge. The Highways Agency is due to install motorway-style barriers to reinforce the road closure and prevent any more potentially dangerous crossings.

A railway bridge across the Derwent was left undamaged, and operator Network Rail has announced that it will be running a free shuttle train from today to connect Workington with a new temporary station north of the river. Prince Charles visited the construction site at the weekend as part of his tour of areas affected by the flooding.