Flood-hit pub could be closed for months after Plymouth rains
WATER came up through the floors of homes in one of the worst-affected areas of Plymouth.
And a pub was inundated for the second time in three days – leading to damage which could keep it closed until January.
Residents and businesses in Colebrook said water had rolled down the surrounding hills from saturated ground and overpowered the Victorian sewerage system.
Donna Finch, who lives in Golden Square, said water had seeped through the floor and saturated her carpet.
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She added that a foot of water had turned the courtyard garden of her cottage into a "dirty swimming pool" but sandbags and boards had kept most of the flooding at bay.
Mrs Finch was last night trying to dry out her home with a dehumidifier while preparing for more flooding.
"It is just the volume of rain making the water table rise," she said. "It comes down the hills with such a force, it is like a river at the front. It is not a question of blocked drains.
"It is too many homes for an outdated sewerage system."
Mrs Finch was away on Saturday night but could not get back from Newton Ferrers because of flooding there.
Friends looked after her home while firemen pumped out her courtyard and that of a neighbour.
Mrs Finch said it flooded regularly and residents and businesses had held meetings after the last major problems with the authorities – but nothing had been done.
David Mitchelmore, landlord of the Colebrook Inn, was still clearing up after flooding on Thursday when the waters came back with even greater force on Saturday.
He said six inches of water had filled the ground floor and the carpets and flooring were ruined.
"I don't know when I am going to be able to open again," he added. "It could be January. We have had an exceptional amount of rain over the last few days, the drains and the system just cannot cope.
"There was a massive volume of water coming through the pub. There has been so much damage, we have to do building work and the concrete floors will have to come up."
Mr Mitchelmore said four nearby cottages had been flooded, with two residents moving out of their homes.
Areas surrounding Plymouth also fell victim to flooding.
Yealmpton, Modbury and Sparkwell, including the Dartmoor Zoological Park, were all hit by heavy rainfall.
Tourist attraction Morwellham Quay, near Gunnislake, was also badly flooded. Staff there said a synthetic ice rink just installed for the Christmas season was completely under water yesterday.
The drama began again last night as the rain returned, causing more flooding in Forder Valley.
Increasing winds also shut the middle lane of the Tamar Bridge to traffic.
SOUTH WEST TAKES A SOAKING
FLOODING caused widespread disruption across Devon and Cornwall, which bore the brunt of the country’s relentless rain.
One young woman was killed by a falling tree in Exeter, while water gushed into the streets of several towns and villages in Cornwall.
The EnvironmentAgency had issued 57 flood warnings and 60 flood alerts by last night.
Devon and Somerset fire crews attended 51 incidents involving vehicles stuck in floodwater in 24 hours – and 550 incidents in total over the same period.
Lostwithiel, Mevagissey and Newlyn were among the hardest-hit towns in Cornwall. Cornwall Council said the worst of the rain had moved away last night, but an emergency control centre remained in place.
Across the Tamar, vast swathes of Devon were under water, including parts of Exeter, Exmouth, Tiverton and Newton Abbot.
A 21-year-old-woman was killed when a tree fell on her tent in Exeter, and two others were injured.
First Great Western lifted restrictions on tickets after services out of Exeter and Plymouth were initially cancelled, leaving thousands to resort to replacement buses.
Network Rail spokesman James Davis said engineers were working to clear water-logged tracks into Tiverton and Liskeard.
“Water has flooded the lines and the clear instruction from Network Rail is it is not safe to drive a train through,” he added.
Police closed dozens of major and minor routes to traffic, leaving some of the worst-hit communities isolated.
The M5 motorway junctions 25 and 26 were closed after flooding and the A30 into Honiton was also blocked.
North Devon was virtually cut off for a time on Saturday when its main roads were closed.
SOUTH EAST CORNWALL AMONG WORST HIT
FORTY properties were inundated in Millbrook on Saturday as the village was hit by its first major floods in more than 30 years.
Cornwall Council estimated that as many as 100 people were evacuated from their homes.
A rest centre was set up in the Methodist Church, but businesses in West Street seemed to bear the brunt of the flooding – with a reported 5ft of water at their doors on Saturday night.
One shopkeeper said he felt “helpless” as about a foot of water flooded his store.
The Spar store’s Bill Dearing said: “There was nothing we could do. We have lost quite a few thousand pounds in stock. The computers on the post office counter were underwater and the freezers are ruined.”
The 61-year-old added that he gave away food from the freezers to the nearby Devon and Cornwall pub, where it was cooked for residents affected by the flooding.
Resident Roger Bews, who lives in Hounster Hill, said a nearby stream burst its banks.
He described the water as “vicious” as friends helped to try to keep the flooding at bay.
Mr Bews said a couple of inches flooded his back two rooms.
“We escaped fairly narrowly, really,” he added. “We have French doors and they held back the water fairly well.
“The water was so fierce it punched a hole in a neighbour’s wall.”
Mr Bews thanked friends for their help as the community rallied to fight the flooding into the early hours.
Parish council chairman Frances Brennan said: “I have never seen anything like it in 20 years. The rain was coming out of the fields in torrents.”
She said parish councillors and South East Cornwall MP Sheryll Murray were helping out until 1am.
Mrs Murray, born and bred in the village, said Millbrook used to flood regularly but had been protected since 1976 by flood defences.
Water drains into a lake, which is controlled by sluice gates into the Tamar Estuary.
She added the gates could have been opened earlier during the heavy rain, but it took an Environment Agency worker an hour to arrive from Polperro to open them with a special key.
Mrs Murray said: “There was a massive amount of water running off the saturated ground. But once the gates were opened the water drained in about 15 minutes.”
She said she had suggested to the agency that a trusted person such as a parish councillor could keep the key.
The agency is now due to hold a meeting to discuss measures to prevent any further flooding.
But Mrs Murray said that leaving the gates open because of forecast bad weather could allow tides to come in.
Fellow resident Colyn Thomas said he too had warned of a looming flood after noticing silt building up in the hours leading up to the drama.
An Environment Agency spokesman said: “Our engineers and the fire service removed the sluice gates and drained the lake. We actually reduced the number of properties flooded.
“We have never had to drain the lake before but it was felt necessary on Saturday night.”
Cornwall Council said a few properties in Cawsand were also flooded.
Engineers believe a manhole cover “popped” under water pressure.
Residents near a blocked culvert were also supplied with sandbags.
Locals were last night starting to raise cash online for those hit by flooding at tinyurl.com/ctngdze.
In Polperro the fire and rescue service pumped out water from the top end of the village, which was also badly flooded.
Meanwhile, the A38 was blocked in both directions when a tree fell across the road at Notter Bridge near Saltash yesterday. Traffic was diverted, causing major disruption into the evening.