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Last Updated: Tuesday, 17 August, 2004, 13:43 GMT 14:43 UK
'It's like an earthquake'
By Jenny Matthews
BBC News Online in Boscastle

The clear blue skies and sunny weather gave no hint to the devastation wreaked by floods in Boscastle on Monday night.

Hotel in Boscastle
Tourists have not been able to return to their hotels
The village, nestled in a steep green valley, seemed to sparkle below me in the sunlight as I approached on the morning after the night before.

But as I picked my way down the narrow road, which winds through the village to the harbour, it became very clear that something had gone seriously wrong.

The road suddenly heaved and buckled, bollards were strewn across my path and lumps of tarmac lay in the gutter.

"It's like there's been an earthquake," said one resident who did not want to be named.

"It's like something that has happened in another country. It's hard to believe."

One family was cleaning out their house, grimly loading sodden armchairs onto trucks.


Further down the hill a group armed with spades and shovels did its best to clear the damp rubble and silt from outside a row of cottages. Water still lapped over the doorsteps.

But it was at the bottom of the hill around the harbour itself where the damage was greatest.

Some people still could not get back into their homes. The road was sealed off with police tape, with groups of officers and shocked villagers standing around.

It was just a normal lousy wet afternoon, it wasn't even raining in the morning
Resident Steve Lancaster

Emergency service vehicles flashed their lights and a van load of building surveyors in florescent yellow jackets began the job of working out what buildings could still be entered.

Trees had been uprooted and were lying in people's gardens. On the other side of the harbour a black estate car had been flipped over and was lying on its back resting on the crushed and distorted boot of a white Peugeot.

Keith Ireland, 48, who has a holiday home on the harbour but was out for the day when the floods hit, said he had still not been able to see what damage had been done.

"I've got no idea what has happened to it because I have not been allowed back to assess the damage.


"I know it's quite bad because next door they had to be rescued through the roof, but I've absolutely no idea whether it's still standing or anything.

"Our biggest worry was the dog, which was still in the house. But our friend has called to say she is safe with them. Apparently a policeman broke a window to get her out."

Steve Lancaster, 46, who lives in a ground floor flat around the harbour, had been told he must wait at least until Tuesday morning before structural and safety checks could be carried out to see if he could return.

Rescue teams are assessing the damage

Mr Lancaster was at work when the flooding happened but was told by a neighbour that his house was up to the ceiling in silt. His cat, Eric, was nowhere to be seen and he thought it may have been killed. He was clearly still in shock.

"It was just a normal lousy wet afternoon, it wasn't even raining in the morning," he said.

Trevor Stewart, who has lived in the village for 17 years, said he had never seen anything like it.

"Boscastle is not prone to floods at all. There was something once when a house got flooded and an elderly gentlemen died but that was way in the past, certainly before my time," he said.

There was a real sense of shock and bafflement throughout the village that something like this could happen in such a normal, calm and pretty place.


But there was also a sense of amazement that no-one was killed, and a real sense of community spirit and pride that everyone had done everything they could to help.

Residents asked how each other were doing, and hugged each other.

"The teenagers joined in last night. They were terrific helping people get out of the water and up the hill," said one woman.

But there was also a slight sense of anger building. Several people told me the roads in the village should have been closed.

"Cars were still coming down while others were trying to get out. It is a narrow road so people just got stuck," said one woman who did not want to be named.

Mr Lancaster wondered whether it was concrete evidence of global warming.

Others were more pragmatic.

"I just hope I've got insurance cover. I hope I remembered to renew it," said Mr Ireland.

The BBC's Sangita Myska
"Saving homes from these floodwaters is an unforgiving, miserable job"


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