DINERS were evacuated from a Dulverton pub after the rain-swollen River Barle burst its banks, flooding several homes and businesses in the village.
The Bridge Inn was packed with customers on Saturday night when owners Rachel and Kenny McDonald spotted the breach and took swift action to clear the premises.
A fallen 20ft tree became lodged under the bridge outside the pub, blocking the river flow and sending a torrent into several nearby properties, including a garage, beauty salon, farm shop and cottages.
Rachel and her staff immediately began stuffing towels under doors and boarding up cracks with wood panels but within 15 minutes of the last customers leaving, the bar was submerged under almost three feet of muddy water.
“Kenny looked out of the top window and could see the water gushing towards us,” said Rachel, who ran upstairs to escape the deluge with her children Angus, six and Isla, three.
“We could hear things moving around and breaking downstairs, but what really worried us was that it would get even higher and break through the windows.”
The pair managed to call the emergency services, who were working at the end of the road, and a fire crew managed to open a side door to gain access.
The water subsided within 1½ hours and the river level dropped, but the carpets, walls and furniture were left caked in mud.
All staff returned to help with the clear-up early the next morning, and the team worked throughout Sunday and Christmas Eve to get the pub back open for bookings on Boxing Day.
“It has been overwhelming how kind everyone has been,” said Rachel, who has run the pub for six years.
“You really know who your friends and colleagues are times like this.
“The emergency services have done an outstanding job here.
“When we spoke with them Saturday night they were so reassuring.
“We know them all personally because they drink in the pub but they were all working around the clock trying to help people.”