Weather: Floods Bring Christmas Misery

Families preparing for Christmas have been hit by floods and travel chaos as heavy rain batters Britain.

Six severe flood warnings are now in place, which means there is a risk to life. They are all in the South West and include River Cober, River Caen at Braunton, River Yeo and River Fowey.  

Conditions are so bad that rail passengers have been told to avoid parts of southwest England and South Wales.

And motorists and shoppers faced difficult conditions on one of the busiest weekends of the year for travel and shopping.

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.

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

"It's really bad. We had flooding seven years ago but it was nothing like this," she said.

Some residents in Helston, Cornwall, were evacuated overnight after river levels rose.

In Lostwithiel around 195 people were advised to leave their homes, and a rest area was set up in the Community Centre.

Cornwall Council spokeswoman Trisha Hewitt, said:  "As this is falling on saturated ground, this could cause further flooding."

The Environment Agency has issued 183 flood warnings - where flooding is expected - across the whole of England and Wales, and 374 flood alerts, where flooding is possible.

There was a heightened flood risk across Cornwall, Devon, Somerset, Dorset, Bristol, Hampshire, the Isle of Wight, West and East Sussex, North Yorkshire, South Wales, Ceredigion and Gwynedd.

In Scotland, 17 flood warnings - mostly in Tayside - and 15 flood alerts were issued by the Scottish Environment Protection Agency .

The Met Office released amber weather warnings, which mean "be prepared", for heavy rain and strong winds across southwest England, Yorkshire and Humber, Wales, central Scotland and the Grampians until Sunday morning.

Sky News weather presenter Nazaneen Ghaffar said heavy rain was forecast to continue across much of the country.

"We're going to continue with bits and pieces of rain over south-western parts of England for the rest of today," she said.

"That main rain from Saturday morning is moving north and eastwards - so there will be some heavy downpours in Scotland and northern England."

The water has already led to major issues on road and train networks, spelling trouble for Britons travelling this weekend.

The First Great Western train company advised passengers whose travel was not essential to avoid any journeys west of Taunton in Somerset because of flooding and landslips.

Arriva Trains Wales told passengers to avoid any rail travel in South Wales. Both operators were using road vehicles to transport passengers, but efforts were hampered by a lack of vehicles and flooded roads.

Meanwhile, staff shortages and signalling problems caused disruption on London Midland services. Buses replaced trains on some routes, while passengers were warned of possible cancellations at short notice.

Mark Ridge, landlord of The London Inn, Braunton, only moved into the pub seven months ago with his family and had spent £90,000 on renovation work.

"We were hoping this weekend would be our bumper weekend, to carry us through January and February trade wise, but it's just killed it now," he said.

Annette Essex, who owns a pet shop in Braunton, said: "Suddenly at 6am the banks of one of the rivers broke and the water came flooding down Caen Street and into the high street and we were under about 3ft of water in our store area.

"It was like a torrent of water. It was quite scary because you could hear the swish of the water and the whole road just turned into a river in the space of about 30-40 minutes."

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