HORRIFIED residents in Cardigan town centre are living in fear of a possible health hazard after an invasion of rats.

Ceredigion County Council officers say the infestation is the result of recent heavy rain and flooding, but this is refuted by householders who claim the vermin, some as big as cats, have been present for some weeks and numbers are increasing.

The problem is in a lane behind Morgan Street, running down from Priory Street to Pwllhau, just a few yards from a county council storage depot and a stone’s throw from the county council offices in Morgan Street.

An extremely concerned elderly resident in Morgan Street said “The rats are a massive problem. The blighters are everywhere, even in broad daylight and appear oblivious to people.”

A woman in Pwllhau said “The rats have been running around for some weeks and it is no good officials saying this is an overnight occurrence.”

A spokesman at the award-winning Crwst Restaurant at the corner of Morgan Street and Priory Street, the rear of which backs onto the lane, told the Tivyside. “We are not directly affected by the rats, which are prevalent further on, but we were made aware of the problem and immediately contacted the county council.”

After a growing number of complaints council officials inspected the area on Friday afternoon and told residents the problem was caused by heavy rain and flooding.

A council spokesperson said “We are in receipt of complaints in relation to sightings of rats in the Cardigan town centre area.

“This is likely to be as a result of the recent heavy rainfall. During such weather conditions rat and mouse infestations in and around flooded areas tend to increase.

“Officers are currently in the process of investigating the complaints,” said the spokesperson.