Floods stall Christmas getaway in UK

Rail passengers and motorists were facing further misery today as the great Christmas getaway was stalled by continued wet weather, and floods hit homes and shops.

Four severe flood warnings – which means there is a danger to life – were issued for south-west England.

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 region overnight and residents in the town woke to find Caen Street and the A361 under water.

Liz Spear, chairman of Braunton Parish Council, said a river was running through the centre of the town.

Devon and Cornwall Police said “numerous properties” were affected.

First Great Western advised rail passengers whose travel is not essential to avoid any journeys west of Taunton in Somerset because of flooding and landslips.

The train operator said road vehicles were being used to transport passengers between Taunton, Exeter and Plymouth, but the service was hampered by flooded roads.

The Highways Agency said there were a handful of flooding incidents but they were not causing delays on the motorway network.

A spokesman said: “We have some localised issues but things are still running freely. We are continuing to monitor the situation and we’ll take action where necessary.”

Britain's Environment Agency (EA) issued two severe flood warnings for Braunton, and one each for Heston and Lostwithiel, both in Cornwall.

The agency has also issued 108 flood warnings – where flooding is expected - across the whole of England and Wales, and 313 flood alerts, meaning flooding is possible.

Mrs Spear said newly built flood defences were overwhelmed by the volume of water that hit Braunton.

“It’s really bad, we had flooding seven years ago, but it was nothing like this,” she said.

“It’s disappointing really because the EA have just spent over £1 million on new flood defence schemes, two flood defence schemes, this year, but they’ve been totally overwhelmed, absolutely.

“We’ve had rain on and off all summer so everywhere is saturated and now we’re having our normal heavy rain that we get in the winter and the sponge is already soaked up, it can’t take anymore.”

Mrs Spear, who has lived in Braunton for 45 years, added: “The EA were sending out flood warnings at about five o’clock this morning, we all had warnings and I have been down there two or three times now.

“South Street is partially flooded which has never been flooded before and it’s like a river going down there and that is residential.”

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