A van drives through a flooded street in Tewkesbury, south western England (Reuters)
Flooding disrupts weekend travel plans for millions of Britons Reuters

An overnight downpour has caused severe flooding in many parts of south-west Britain, and authorities have evacuated residents as river levels continued to rise.

As many as 190 people from Helston, Cornwall, were awoken by police at around 1am as the River Cober threatened to burst its banks. Residents were taken to a nearby emergency rest centre.

"There is expected to be 30mm of rainfall during a six-hour period from 5pm," said Trisha Hewitt, spokeswoman for the Cornwall Council.

"As this is falling on saturated ground, this could cause further flooding."

South-west England has been particularly badly affected and the Environment Agency has issued four severe flood warnings, two each for Devon and Cornwall. Significant disruptions are also forecast for north Yorkshire.

The deluge has affected the travel plans of millions of people ahead of Christmas. Road and rail networks have been affected, resulting in the cancellation of trains between Plymouth and Tiverton Parkway or Taunton.

Replacement bus services are running from Exeter St Davids to Tiverton Parkway and Taunton. Signalling problems have been reported in Brighton and in and around Birmingham causing disruptions and diversions in the rail network.

The Heathrow Express and Heathrow Connect rail services were suspended overnight after signalling problems on the Great Western mainline near Hayes and Harlington, reported the BBC.

The Environment Agency has urged people to remain prepared for flooding over the weekend and said: "Further heavy rain is forecast from Saturday morning into Sunday, with successive bands of rain expected to bring a risk of flooding to large areas across the country."

There are 108 flood warnings that indicate flooding is expected and 313 flood alerts that show the possibility of flooding.

The Environment Agency has a three-day forecast on its website.