DOZENS of people were evacuated when floodwater filled their homes in Weymouth.

A total of 18 houses in Rowan Close at Southill were affected by the deluge, which destroyed Christmas presents under people’s trees and electrical goods, a fire service spokesman said.

Fire Incident Commander Nigel Shearing, of Dorset Fire and Rescue Service, said the rainstorm in the early hours of Saturday morning was the heaviest he had seen.

Fire crews evacuated several elderly and young residents while an ambulance crew waited on standby.

Fred Wright, 75, said: “The first we knew was when a neighbour rang at 8am and said we were flooded.

“There was water in the kitchen, the fridge freezer, living room and hallway.

“We’ve got wooden laminate flooring and all the floorboards had lifted, it was all slippy.

“We’ve been here 10 years and it’s the first time it’s happened.

“Our video and hi-fi are gone because they were rested on the floor. We’ll clean it up eventually.”

Mr Wright, whose disabled wife Catherine, 66, was carried out of their home in Rowan Close by firefighters, added: “Everybody’s been excellent. The fire service came down pretty quick.”

Mary McCarthy, 67, of Rowan Close, said: “I was in bed and a neighbour came knocking on my door.

“I looked out and saw the flood and couldn’t believe it, it’s just devastating. I live on the other side of the road so luckily my house wasn’t flooded.

“I’m always saying I wish I lived on the other side because they’ve got nice long gardens but not any more.

“The last time this happened was 1978 when the houses were first built, but it hasn’t happened since then.”

Sam Allison’s two sons Connor, five, and Callum, six, were rescued by firefighters through a window.

She said: “My boys woke up and told me we were flooded downstairs.

“I didn’t believe them at first so I went down and the water was ankle deep.

“I managed to get the Christmas presents up off the floor because they were all around the tree.

“My rug was just floating, my Sky box and all the electrics are ruined.”

She added: “The firemen were just fab, they came in through the window and rescued my boys who were hysterical, bless them.

“We’re going to my mum’s now.”

Sally King, 54, of Rowan Close, said the floodwater came up to her knees in the downstairs of her house.

She said: “I’ve lived here long enough to have been here when it happened 30 years ago.

“It’s about as bad as it was last time.”

Emily Critchell, 13, of Rowan Close said her Christmas presents had been ruined.

She added: “It was not a very nice thing to wake up to.”

The flooding, which was first reported at around 7.30am began to rapidly subside at around 10am.

After the evacuations had taken place, fire crews continued to pump floodwater from particularly waterlogged back gardens and put sandbags in place ready for any further downpours.

Crew manager Bob Terrey, of Portland fire station, also attended.

He said: “We were worried about more rain coming so we pumped the water away from the back of the houses – where it was up to the back door – and into the green fields.

“We then put sandbags in place to stop it coming back in.”

Dorset Police Community Support Officers Ade Walker and Clive Joyner helped secure people’s homes and ensured they had somewhere to go.

PCSO Joyner said: “It’s brought out the best of community spirit. Everyone’s been helping each other, it’s very good to see.”

Clinical Support Officer Michael Ellis, for Weymouth Ambulance Station, said: “We were called as there were several infirm people in the properties.

“We were just mainly here as a precaution.

“There were a few people we were concerned about their wellbeing.”

Shops in Radipole Lane were also flooded when a river broke its banks and swept across the road.

Crew manager David Allen, of Weymouth Fire Station said: “There was flooding in the shops and nearby houses.

“I think a river burst its banks in the back of Radipole Lane.

“The river runs underneath the tarmac so it just went straight across the road.”

He said a high volume pump was brought from Christchurch and sandbags were put in place to prevent further flooding.

Mr Allen said the aim was to divert water away from the shops and ‘eventually push it into Radipole Lake’.

Resident Michael Frampton, 39, of Southill said: “I just looked out of my window and the flooding was everywhere.

“I’ve seen somebody’s car half submerged.

“This hasn’t happened for more than 20 years, although it used to quite a bit when I was younger.”

Elsewhere, the A354 Dorchester Road was flooded in both directions at the Nottington Lane junction at Nottington, near Weymouth. The B3157 at Garston Hill, near the East Street junction in Chickerell, was also left underwater following the heavy rainfall. And the A35 between Bere Regis and Poole was hit by flooding near the Bloxworth junction.

There was further flooding both ways at the Monkey’s Jump Roundabout, at the junction of the A35 and the A37 near Dorchester.