Devon deluge sees homes flooded and travel chaos
Another deluge of rain has brought festive misery to property and business owners in Devon.
Dozens of residents in the county were facing Christmas with floodwater in their homes as heavy rain over the weekend once again battered the South West.
Meanwhile thousands of Christmas commuters suffered travel chaos as road and rail services were severely hampered by the effects of flooding.
Some 25 people were led to safety by emergency services in the village of Stoke Canon near Exeter after the River Exe burst its banks.
North Devon residents in Braunton, Umberleigh, Barnstaple and Bishops Tawton were evacuated after the Rivers Yeo and Caen burst their banks.
The town of Braunton was virtually cut-off by the floodwater.
Devon and Cornwall Police said "numerous properties" and several shops had been affected.
Liz Spear, chairman, of Braunton Parish Council, said newly-built flood defences were overwhelmed by the volume of water that hit the town.
"It's really bad, we had flooding seven years ago, but it was nothing like this.
"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 any more."
Mrs Spear, who has lived in Braunton for 45 years, said there was a river running through the centre of the town.
The British Surf Museum in Braunton tweeted a warning saying "village centre under five feet of water".
A £1.2 million defence scheme completed in June at the River Caen was supposed to reduce the flooding risk from a one in 20 chance of occurring in any one year to one in 100. Following floods in the village in 2004, the agency created a flood defence plan working in liaison with the parish council.
Two elderly women were rescued from a Bishops Tawton property that was by three foot of floodwater.
The fire crew and a RNLI in-shore boat brought them to safety before another two people and two dogs were rescued from a nearby cottage.
In the village of Colebrook, near Plymouth, seven homes were evacuated overnight and in Plympton 15 people were forced to move after the Long Brook burst its banks. A number of people also had to be moved from homes in Aveton Gifford.
Train services throughout the region were severely disrupted by the flooding.
First Great Western confirmed the Exeter St Davids to Barnstaple and Liskeard to Looe lines were closed and would reopen on December 29 at the earliest.
The rail operator advised passengers not to travel in the South West. Network Rail said one of two plastic dams set up to protect the railway line at Exeter to minimise flood damage was itself under water. And it admitted the main line could be blocked for five days.
Drivers faced problems as many roads were closed due to flooding and land slips, including the A396 Tiverton to Exeter road, the A377 Crediton to Exeter road and the A39 at Barnstaple. Okehampton was recorded as the wettest place in the country with almost 3 inches (66mm) of rain falling in the 24 hours up to 5pm yesterday.