Firefighters have rescued four people from two houses in Malmesbury after it was hit by the worst flooding in 70 years.

Torrential rain caused the River Avon to flood in the early hours of this morning, flooding the centre of town and at least a sozen houses.

Malmesbury Mayor Ray Sanderson said it was the worst he has ever seen.

He said: "The water got to about four houses on the high street. It's terrible. It was lapping the steps of the Rose and Crown.

"The houses won't dry out for weeks and months. There were cars with water up to their bonnets.

"Let's hope there's no more rain today - it's absolutely devastating. I feel sorry for the people who have been flooded

"It's the worst flooding in 70 years, I was a boy in Malmesbury and I've never seen water like it."

A section of the High Street was cut off by the 3ft deep water from the River Avon.

Flooding Minister Richard Benyon was in the town this afternoon to see the damage caused.

A family was rescued from their home after they climbed through an upper window to safety. The water was so strong it prevented them from opening their front door. 

Fire service watch manager Chris Harvey said: ""We were called out to a number of incidents this morning, one of which was at the bridge houses at the bottom of the high street.

"A lady was unable to exit her home, and three occupants of neighbouring properties were rescued from the top windows of their properties with ladders.

"Water levels were subsiding while we were there and it's gone to a level where the roads have been reopened.

"It's more rain forecast for this evening and overnight and we've been making sure people have been moving belongings to higher levels.

"I've not seen this to this extent and I've been on the force for 10 years.""

Town councillor Martyn Snell, who was a Wiltshire firefighter for more than 42 years, said: "It's pretty grim. The area affected most is at the point where two rivers meet - the floods got a number of houses.

"Historically it's nothing new, unfortunately there are people in some of those properties that haven't had to deal with this before. I do sympathise with them.

"We can't control weather patterns, and this makes a big impact on the community - there's going to be real hardship.

"One thing about all this is that Community Partnership has been wonderful. The services have been stretched and it's all self help."

Paul Kershaw told the BBC his  home was flooded when water breached the banks of the Avon.

He said although the river had been a bit high, "nothing was expected to crash like it did last night".

"At 10pm, everything was fine, it was low. Come two in the morning I got a call from a neighbour saying it had entered into their house, mine seemed fine.

"And within 30 minutes of that water was coming through the property.

"It all happened in a couple of hours," he added.

Rose and Crown landlord Tom Hudson, said: "The water is just outside the door.

"It's gone down a lot but I'm trying to get hold of some sandbags because more rain is forecast for later today.

"Houses across the road have been flooded to a depth of three or four feet, with furniture floating around in the rooms.

"I've been here 14 years and there were floods in 2000 and again in 2007, but this is much worse than either of those."

The pub has been busy providing tea and coffee for those flooded out this afternoon.

Further afield the Stanton Manor Hotel at Stanton St Quintin had to call out the fire service when its cellar flooded. Manager Bernice Reed said: "The cellar was 2ft deep in water. The boiler system electrics are all down there.

"Our pit pump could not cope, the water table was too powerful. The fire brigade were brilliant and sorted it all for us after being out all night."

Watch a video of the flooding here