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Rivers on flood warnings as storms lash Westcountry

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: October 25, 2011

  • Torquay seafront storms Picture: Don Proctor

  • Visitors to the Meadfoot seafront at Torquay in Devon look at the waves as they crash against the sea wall

  • A wave crashes over a train at Dawlish Picture: Richard Austin

  • Wreckage from the Napoli washed up at Beer. Picture: Richard Austin

  • Torquay seafront

  • Waves crashed against sea walls all along the Devon and Cornwall coasts – here at Portmellon

  • A man inspects a flash flooded back garden in Portmellon, near Mevagissey, after heavy rain hit the region

  • Kay Stones cleans inside The Ship Inn after flooding hit the pub at Mevagissey in South Cornwall

  • Firefighters help a motorist out of flash flood water in Mevagissey

  • Floodwater on St Levan Road, Keyham, Plymouth

  • Chicha tries to keep sheltered from the rain in Plymouth

  • Chicha tries to keep sheltered from the rain in Plymouth

  • St Budeaux runners brave the soaking conditions

  • Chicha tries to keep sheltered from the rain in Plymouth

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Heavy winds and torrential rain lashed the Westcountry - leaving many parts flooded, properties damaged and trees uprooted across the region.

Home owners and businesses in Cornwall – which bore the brunt of the severe weather – were again counting the cost of serious flooding, after storms hit yesterday, while parts of Devon also took a battering.

Emergency lines were red hot as the intense rain storm passed over the region yesterday with more than 300 callers reporting fallen trees, surface water and blocked drains by mid afternoon.

Flood alerts remained in place at 14 locations last night – including every Cornish river – and communities braced themselves for more problems overnight after forecasters predicted an entire month of rain would fall in just one day.

In the worst-hit areas, half the typical rainfall for October – more than 50mm (2in) – was recorded in a six-hour spell.

The centre of Mevagissey – which was visited by Prince Charles and David Cameron after hundreds of homes and business were damaged last November – was again underwater as was Trewoon, near St Austell.

Fire crews pumped water from a house and pub and cars were stuck in the car park by a deluge which caught many residents unaware.

One of the victims of the 2010 devastation, the Ship Inn, was again forced to close, losing hundreds of pounds of half-term holiday trade, when the bar was left under 10in of water.

Landlady Kim Barker, said staff had been “wading through water” as they tried to clean up in time for the evening.

“When I walked in my heart sank and I thought ‘oh no not again’ but luckily it is nowhere near as bad as last time,” she added.

“The fortunate thing is that it didn’t happen overnight so we were able to rescue a few things, furniture and stock.

“We were given warnings for the middle of the week and have sandbags ready, but not for today.”

Cornwall Council said 50 teams totalling about 100 workers had been responding to incidents during the day and staff would remain on standby throughout the night.

The authority said its neighbourhood services team received 326 calls in eight hours, 166 of which related to flooding and blocked drains.

“Council staff have been working with other agencies to assist residents in the worst affected areas, including Mevagissey, Roche and Bugle,” the spokesman added.

Cornwall Fire and Rescue Service was on standby throughout the day, with crews receiving calls to 10 incidents, including reports of flooded properties in Mevagissey and Roche.

In Devon, Torquay seafront was shut to traffic, with Torre Abbey and roads in Torbay also closed.

About four miles of traffic queues were reported along a stretch of the westbound A30 – between Exeter’s A377 Alphington Junction and the B3260 to Okehampton – because of surface water.

Drivers also faced flooding and surface water on the A38 in Liskeard around the A390 junction and between the A389 junction in Wadebridge and the B3266 junction in Camelford.

Strong winds and high tides in south Devon increased the risk of localised flooding in coastal areas.

Tidal gates were closed on waterways at Beesands in south Devon, Sutton Harbour in Plymouth, Polperro in south east Cornwall, and Copperhouse in Hayle, west Cornwall.

The Environment Agency issued flood warnings on the Rivers Tamar, Fal, Fowey, St Austell and Par, and anticipated a further 50mm (2in) to fall in west Devon by 8pm last night.

The agency had warned that particularly heavy and persistent rain over Cornwall could cause rivers to burst their banks. It said the Lost Gardens of Heligan, in Cornwall, saw 50mm (2in) of rain in just six hours.

A spokesman said the storm had been “intense” but that flooding had all been due to surface water rather than overtopping rivers and that damage to properties had been “better than expected” earlier in the day.

However, in a statement last night, it urged people to protect themselves and their properties and “remain vigilant” throughout the night. A spokesman added: “There has been very high rainfall in Bodmin, Newquay and St Austell but nothing like as bad as last year – we have issued flood alerts but not warnings.”

The Met Office had warned some areas of Devon and Cornwall could have as much as 150mm (5.9in) of rain yesterday.

Debris 'from the Napoli' washed up on beaches

Debris thought to be from the cargo of the MSC Napoli which was grounded off the Westcountry coast almost five years ago was yesterday found on local beaches.

The giant cargo ship was beached off Branscombe, East Devon, in January 2007 after suffering storm damage in the English Channel.

Cargo from the stricken ship washed up on the shores of Branscombe beach, prompting unprecedented scenes as thousands of scavengers rooted through about 50 of the 2,400 containers.

BMW motorbikes, car parts, pet food, anti-wrinkle cream, wine barrels and nappies were among the goods taken from the beach.

Yesterday, further remains from the cargo were found on the nearby beach at Beer mixed in with seaweed brought ashore by storms.

"It is the same kind of material as when the Napoli came in," WMN photographer Richard Austin said. "The beach is strewn with black plastic bits from car parts, bits of wing mirrors and consoles.

"Some of the pieces look brand new, rather than having been bashed about in the sea, as though something has been moved underwater and opened up."

The 62,000-tonne vessel was en-route from Antwerp to South Africa when its hull was cracked during a storm off The Lizard. Its 26 crew members were airlifted to safety.

While being towed to Portland in Dorset, the weather turned, and fearing that the vessel might disintegrate the decision was taken to ground her in Lyme Bay to avoid a major environmental disaster on the world heritage Jurassic coast.

Most of the vessel was broken up using explosive charges before being cut up and taken away.

Lifeboat crews rescue men thrown into sea after boat flips in storms

The RNLI has warned sailors to take care in high winds after four men were rescued when their boat flipped over in gale-force-eight conditions.

Lifeboats battled to rescue the men on Sunday when the seven-metre rigid inflatable boat overturned at the sandbar in Exmouth, Devon.

The men were all thrown into the rough seas but managed to swim to the boat and climb onto the hull.

Off-duty Coastwatch volunteer David Garratt, who witnessed the rescue, said the weather was “diabolical”.

“It was really windy and very, very rough – the lifeboat had quite a job to launch,” he added.

The inshore lifeboat, George Berman, struggled in the conditions as the all-weather lifeboat Margaret Jean stood by.

Inshore lifeboat helmsman Roger Jackson said: “It was as rough a sea as we had launched into for quite some time. Conditions off the bar were highly treacherous with steep and confused seas with waves of up to three metres at times.”

Exmouth RNLI were tasked by Brixham Coastguards at 4.29pm on Sunday. The crew rescued the men, but due to the large waves breaking over the stricken vessel, this had to be done one by one with the men swimming to the lifeboat.

The men were later checked over by paramedics.

Plymouth battered by torrential rain

Four people rescued from the water off seafront

Electrical telegraph pole in danger of collapsing following fire

Bad weather causes tree to fall into road

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