One dead, 150 evacuated and homes flooded as rain just keeps on coming
A woman sleeping in a tent has become the second fatality of the flooding which has hit the Westcountry in the wake of days of relentless heavy rain.
Widespread disruption was experienced throughout the region, which bore the brunt of the terrible weather lashing the UK.
More than 250 properties in Devon and Cornwall were affected by floodwater yesterday and an estimated 150 people who were evacuated on Saturday night after downpours on already-saturated land caused numerous rivers to break their banks.
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Torrents of muddy water surged through communities, with those in Newlyn, Mevagissey, Lostwithiel, Polperro and Millbrook in Cornwall worst affected, with the latter under a reported 5ft of water at one point.
Across the Tamar, victims of the atrocious conditions included vast swathes of Devon, which had already been hit by the worst of the weather from last week.
Plymouth, Exeter and Exmouth were all affected, while the residents of Kennford, near Exeter, found themselves under several inches of water when the River Kenn – normally little more than a stream – burst its banks.
North Devon was virtually cut off for a time on Saturday when its main roads, the A377 Crediton road and the A361 North Devon Link Road, became impassable.
In Exeter, a 21-year-old woman was said to have been killed "instantaneously" when a tree growing in the grounds of an empty ex-council building was blown down, crashing on to the tent where she was sleeping, near to the Western Way ring road.
A resident living in the row of houses opposite said she heard "a crash" then "a girl screaming".
The woman, who did want to be named, said: "I just feel really shocked. It was windy, but there was this time when it just seemed to pick up – I heard a noise, a girl screaming and looked out of the window but could not see anything."
Police superintendent Sarah Sharpe said: "Sadly three people were involved in the incident in Exeter and a lady was fatally injured."
She added the woman was from Exeter and next of kin had been informed, although a formal identification had not taken place as the Western Morning News went to press.
The other two people injured were aged 27 and 35.
The heavy rain had claimed its first fatality in Somerset last week, when a man died after his car became submerged in the rising water and was trapped beneath a bridge.
At The Ride, Plymstock, 23 people were rescued by boat after their homes flooded. They were among 60 people rescued from a dozen sites across Plymouth.
In Devon as a whole, county council workers were working flat out to deal with the aftermath of flooding at properties in Kingsteignton, Topsham, Exmouth, Sidmouth, Feniton, Tiverton, Newton Abbot and across the South Hams.
A rest centre was set up in Cullompton for residents of 25 properties at Rivermead, which became inundated and had to be evacuated by police and fire crews.
Yesterday, residents of Millbrook, Cornwall, were beginning the clean-up operation.
Bill Dearing, 61, who owns the local Spar shop, was one and said it was heartbreaking: "This is my business and my livelihood."
The shop owner, who has lived in the village for 14 years, added that the floods took everyone by surprise after the water levels rose dramatically in half an hour.
In Newlyn, numerous homeowners and businesses were also counting the cost when the river burst its banks creating a 2ft-deep pool of water in the town centre.
Norman and Janette Hoblyn described how the fast-moving water suddenly overtopped a bridge, then came surging down towards their cottage.
"The water was raging down the valley then next minute it was on the road and covering the road," said Mr Hoblyn. "We realised that it was going to be bad, so we rolled up the carpets and took them upstairs and we took things like electrical, photos and books upstairs as well."
At a charity shop run by the Trinity Methodist Church, methodist minister Julyan Drew said the filthy water had gushed in the front door and swept straight through the ground floor of the premises.
Last night the EnvironmentAgency issued 57 flood warnings and 60 flood alerts.
Helston was the only place in the South West to remain on the highest level, with a severe flood warning issued after the level of the River Cober rose to dangerous levels.
Prime Minister David Cameron spoke of his shock at the extent of the devastation.
He said on Twitter: "Shocking scenes of flooding. Govt will help ensure everything is being done to help."
Meanwhile Environment Minister Richard Benyon told BBC Breakfast: "We recognise that while somewhere over 400 homes have been flooded, we have actually managed to protect over 24,000 homes by recently constructed flood defences, and so that is, if you like, the silver lining to this cloud."