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Man dies as wind and rain sweep across Devon

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: January 31, 2013

  • The village of Stoke Canon from the flooded Exe valley

  • Surface water covers farmland in the Exe valley just above Cowley Bridge, prompting trains to slow down to 20mph Picture: Richard Austin

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A man died after falling into the sea and a woman was rescued from floodwater as high winds and heavy rain continued to batter the Westcountry yesterday.

Farmers in upland areas have been forced to bring livestock indoors after pasture land became a "sea of mud" and mainline trains in and out of the region were reduced to a snail's pace as flood waters crept towards tracks.

Winds gusting up to 70mph hampered rescue attempts after a man fell into a stormy sea off Torquay on Tuesday evening.

Lifeboat crews went into the water attached to a rope and pulled the man ashore near the Princess Theatre, but he died despite resuscitation attempts.

Yesterday a 29-year-old woman was rescued by an inflatable boat after her car got stuck in flood water near Newbridge, in Devon.

Flood warnings remained in place for parts of Dorset, Somerset and a series of alerts were raised for rivers across the region.

Forecasters said Dartmoor bore much of the brunt of the latest band of rain to fall overnight into Wednesday, with an inch falling in a few hours near Okehampton.

The Met Office predicted further rain overnight and has issued a yellow warning for Friday, when the latest front is set to hit the region before racing across the UK within a matter of hours.

Derek Gow, a farmer at Broadwoodwidger, yesterday took 350 sheep under cover for the lambing season after land at his Upcott Grange Farm became totally saturated.

He said the accumulation of rain over months had made conditions "impossible" and forced him to relocate his ewes inside a plastic poly-tunnel, the first time in ten years rearing animals there.

"It is so wet that we can't carry on – everything is just a sea of mud and we cannot look after the animals properly outside," he said.

"It has basically been raining here pretty much non-stop since last May and it has now got to the point where it is becoming impossible to access the land."

Charlie Powell, a forecaster with the Exeter-based Met Office, said the "squally" conditions would continue with a further inch of rain expected "quite widely" in Devon and Cornwall on Friday.

He said initial data suggested that January will have seen average levels of rain, but added that already saturated ground might not need much more water to cause surface flooding.

The Environment Agency said there were "cautiously optimistic" that the region was "over the worst" of the recent bad weather.

Spokesman Ben Vizard said six warnings remained in place in Dorset and Somerset.

"River levels are dropping and, although we expect more showers overnight, we don't expect any problems.

"We will see how it pans out – with the ground so saturated you can never say for sure in terms of surface flooding."

Flooding on River Exe in Exeter, Devon, between Stoke Canon and Cowley Bridge - part one.

Flooding on River Exe in Exeter, Devon, between Stoke Canon and Cowley Bridge - part two.

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