Page last updated at 08:43 GMT, Friday, 31 October 2008

Hailstorm floods clean-up begins

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Water levels have subsided, revealing much damage

A clean-up operation has begun after severe flooding caused by an unpredicted wintry storm wreaked havoc in east Devon.

Heavy rain, hail and snow fell in what the Met Office described as a "freak event" in the Ottery St Mary area overnight Thursday.

Floodwaters rose up to 4ft (1.2m), which led to people having to be rescued by air from houses and cars.

Devon County Councillor Roger Giles called for a "very thorough" inquiry.

Damage caused by the severe weather has been estimated at hundreds of thousands of pounds for home owners and businesses in Ottery St Mary.

Roads into the low-lying town became flooded with torrents of water, hedges were ripped away, sections of roads were torn up and a deluge of silt and rubble washed across the town.

There has to be a very thorough inquiry with no effort nor expense spared to prevent an occurrence of this terrible situation
Roger Giles, Devon County Councillor

The Environment Agency said it planned to look at better protection for the culvert in Ottery St Mary to prevent flooding problems in the future.

The culvert became blocked by a range of debris, including cars and a garden shed.

Mr Giles said: "There has to be a very thorough inquiry with no effort nor expense spared to prevent an occurrence of this terrible situation.

"There must be the most comprehensive action taken as a result of what the inquiry finds."

Crews from Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service had to be drafted in to rescue dozens of people from homes in Ottery St Mary and Feniton.

They were taken to the hospital in Ottery St Mary, part of which was used as a shelter for those who had nowhere else to go.

One farmer, John Burrows, lost 35 sheep as a result of the flooding which also led to a number of roads in the area being closed and disruption to rail services.

The Environment Agency put flood warnings in place on the Rivers Otter, Axe, Clyst, Coly, Culm, Isle and Yarty in Devon.

Although river levels for the Clyst, Culm and Otter have now dropped, flood warnings remain in place.

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