Three escape as high winds batter Devon and Cornwall

Gulworthy in rescue
Image caption A woman escaped without serious injury after her car was crushed by a tree

A woman and two children are "lucky to be alive" after a huge tree crushed their car as gale-force winds battered the South West.

The three escaped without serious injuries when the 30ft (9m) tall beech tree toppled over near Tavistock, Devon.

Gusts of nearly 60mph (97km/h) and storm-driven waves of up to 5m (16ft) have swept Devon and Cornwall.

A Jersey yachtsman was airlifted to safety off the Cornish coast.

The Environment Agency has issued a number of flood alerts on rivers and coastal areas of the South West.

The Met Office has issued an amber alert , warning people to take extra care.

Other incidents included:

  • A 40ft clipper yacht drifted on rocks at St Mawes in Cornwall. No crew on board. Another 30ft boat is reported drifting in the area
  • A tree blown down by strong winds brought down an overhead power line in Lanner in Redruth, temporarily affecting about 30 households
  • One lane of the Tamar Bridge between Devon and Cornwall closed because of high winds
  • Cancellation of Scillonian ferry sailing to the Isles of Scilly
  • Evacuation of a church marquee and closure of the sheep section marquee at the Royal Cornwall Show.

Tavistock fire station crews used cutting gear to release the woman at Gulworthy near Tavistock. The children had already escaped from the car.

Image caption The woman is thought to have accelerated to get away from the falling tree

Keith Pascoe, from the fire service, said: "It appears the tree was falling as the car went under it.

"They could have been accelerating to get away from it, but part of the tree went through the car.

"They were incredibly lucky. Another couple of seconds and they would have been engulfed by the tree. It could have been a fatality.

"It's a huge tree - large enough to completely block the road."

Firefighters took 30 minutes to free the woman who was treated for cuts and bruises in hospital. Her children are thought to have been freed by passers-by.

Sailor Peter Evans, 54, was rescued after getting into difficulty on his 22ft yacht Federwolke in a Force 9 gale 40 miles off the Lizard.

Mr Evans, who had set off from Plymouth on the single handed Jester Challenge race to the Azores, was forced to turn back after his boat was swamped by waves and capsized twice.

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Media captionSevere weather is expected for parts of south-west England during Thursday evening

He said: "I didn't get any sleep at all last night, the sea was so rough. I've never seen anything like it."

Mr Evans was airlifted by a crew from RNAS Culdrose in Cornwall, where he was looked after by his rescuers, who also provided him with new clothing.

Terry Collins, watch manager at Falmouth Coastguard, which co-ordinated the rescue, said: "We do advise anyone setting out on the water to take heed of weather forecasts and do not make journeys in conditions unsuitable for their vessel."

Through Thursday and into Friday morning, the centre of the storm is expected to move slowly north-east, touching north Wales and exiting Britain as far north as Northumberland.

For Friday Met Office warnings over wind and rain are extended to include south Wales and many parts of southern England as well as the South West.

Mark Seltzer, from the Met Office, said: "People towing caravans should be aware of the strong winds because it could cause some snaking."

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