Downpours flood out communities

Torrential downpours have battered the south-west of England causing life-threatening floods as "colossal" levels of summer rain continued.

Devon was worst hit as three severe flood warnings were issued, while a man was killed in Northumberland when his car crashed off a rain-soaked road.

More than a month's worth of rain pelted parts of the country in just 24 hours, swelling rivers and streams, causing landslides and wreaking havoc on road and rail networks.

Although the sustained downpours are likely to diminish over the weekend and the coming days, forecasters said rain will continue to fall in heavy bursts across the whole country for at least another week.

After more than two inches of rain fell in just 18 hours in Devon, the Environment Agency put parts of the rivers Yealm, Axe and Burton on the highest grade flood warning, meaning they pose a "danger to life".

A total of around 75 flood warnings and 150 flood alerts were issued across England and Wales.

Residents and emergency services in Yealmbridge, Devon, were left with a huge clean-up operation after homes were overwhelmed with up to six feet of water when the Yealm burst through sandbags put in place in a bid to bolster its flood defences.

Muddy water marks streaked across houses, and the surface of one of the roads in the small hamlet was ripped up under the weight of water that cascaded down the road. Firefighters and teams from the Environment Agency were on the scene pumping water from around the white semi-detached houses.

Terrified villagers spoke of waking up to torrents of water raging through the streets. Mia Leech, 14, described "floods and floods of the river coming down the lane". She said: "By the time we got half the stuff upstairs the water was already up to our necks and past our heads." Water flowed over car roofs, the fridge was knocked over and furniture had been moved around. "My little brother was scared and I had a friend sleeping over and we were both just traumatised, we couldn't go downstairs," she added.

In nearby Yealmpton around 40 homes and 75 residents on one side of the river were affected as water gushed into houses. The river reached a record high of seven-and-a-half feet, the Environment Agency said. Elsewhere, residents in the Leicestershire village of Sheepy Magna were evacuated from their homes after flooding.