On 16 August 2004, a devastating flood swept through the small Cornish village of Boscastle.
Floods devastate village
Very heavy rain fell in storms close to the village, causing two rivers to burst their banks. About two billion litres of water then rushed down the valley straight into Boscastle.
Residents had little time to react. Cars were swept out to sea, buildings were badly damaged and people had to act quickly to survive. Fortunately, nobody died - thanks largely to a huge rescue operation involving helicopters - but there was millions of pounds worth of damage.
On the day of the flood, about 75mm of rain fell in two hours - the same amount that normally falls in the whole of August. Huge amounts of water from this sudden downpour flowed into two rivers, the Valency and Jordan (which flows into the Valency just above Boscastle). Both overflowed, and this caused a sudden rush of water to speed down the Valency - which runs through the middle of Boscastle.
Destruction of houses, businesses and gardens
Floodwater gushed into houses, shops and pubs. Cars, walls and even bridges were washed away. The church was filled with six feet of mud and water. Trees were uprooted and swept into peoples' gardens. The weight of water eroded river banks, damaged gardens and pavements.
There was a huge financial cost to the floods. This included:
- the rescue operation - involving helicopters, lifeboats, and the fire service.
- the loss of 50 cars
- damage to homes, businesses and land
- a loss of tourism, a major source of income for the area
The flooding also had several other key impacts on Boscastle and its inhabitants. These included:
- environmental damage to local wildlife habitats
- coastal pollution caused as debris and fuel from cars flowed out to sea.
- long-term disruption to the village, as a major rebuild project had to be carried out.
- long-term stress and anxiety to people traumatised by the incident.
Responses to the flooding
- John Prescott, the Deputy Prime Minister, and Prince Charles visited members of the emergency services and the local GP surgery, which acted as the emergency centre, in the days following the disaster.
- Prince Charles, who is the Duke of Cornwall, made a large donation to a fund to help rebuild parts of Boscastle.
- The Environment Agency is responsible for warning people about floods and reducing the likelihood of future floods. The Environment Agency has carried a major project to increase flood defences in Boscastle, with the aim of preventing a similar flood happening again.
- We are investing in new ways of predicting heavy rainfall events on a small scale to produce better warnings.
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Map of the area affected.