People have been told to flee their homes as floodwaters and torrential rain caused "serious threats to life and property" in southwest England at the weekend.

Severe flood warnings were issued by Britain's Environment Agency for Helston, Polperro and Perranporth, Cornwall, as rivers threatened to burst their banks.

Special "rest centres" were set up in the worst-hit villages, allowing families to take shelter overnight as the floodwater surged through the rural West Country.

Emergency services, rescue crews and the Environment Agency met council bosses on Saturday night in an effort to spread the message about the danger, following nearly four days of uninterrupted rainfall.


Across the region, roads were closed for safety reasons and others were impassable as rain saturated highways, and debris blocked lanes.

The severe flood warnings, its highest alert, were issued amid concern that lives were at risk.

All three were for the southwest areas near Perranporth, Helston and Polperro - the latter two in areas where there were concerns that nearby rivers were about to burst their banks.

The picturesque fishing port of Polperro has a history of being susceptible to flooding, with many properties in the area having sandbags ready following years of being at flood risk.

People in Mevagissey, Cornwall, were also dealing with flood problems as water surged through the winding streets and crept into homes.

For many, this week's flooding came with barely a few days' respite since the last time deluges crept through the windy streets and into homes.

Heavy rainfall began on Wednesday, presenting those in the worst-affected areas with little chance to clear away the dirty, stagnant water before further downpours tested the patience of weary homeowners.

Devon and Cornwall police met other agencies for special meetings in both counties on Saturday, designed to share intelligence in an effort to minimise the risk to the public.

Spokesman Ian Walls said: "Unfortunately, flooding is not an uncommon occurrence in the South West, but this time it seems that almost everywhere is affected.

"Rest centres have been set up overnight, for people who need to leave their homes and have nowhere else safe to go.

"I don't want to overstate it, but when there is a real danger to life, as there can be with just a foot of floodwater, then action needs to be taken."