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Last Updated: Wednesday, 18 August, 2004, 18:02 GMT 19:02 UK
Rescuer describes Boscastle ordeal
Boscastle during the flooding
'The air was thick with the stench of fuel'
Andrew Cameron, 27, is a crew member of the Port Isaac lifeboat, and was one of the first rescuers to reach the scene of the flash floods in the Cornish village of Boscastle.

Mr Cameron runs a surfing company, but he is also a volunteer lifeguard and lifeboat man.

We got a call at four o'clock. The maroon went up, it's a big bang in the village. Two of those bangs have to go off - one for coastguard, two for lifeboats. So we rushed to the lifeboat station as quickly as possible.

Together with two more volunteers, Damien Bolton and Nigel Sherat, we took out a boat. It's a 20-minute trip from Port Isaac to Boscastle.

The rain was so heavy you couldn't see right in front of you

We were the first lifeboat on the scene and were greeted by a 10-15 foot wall of water coming down the town, out of the harbour and pushing 30, maybe 50 cars in front of it.

There were cars all around us at sea, there was debris everywhere, the air was thick with the stench of fuel.

Then another storm came in as we arrived, so lightning was hitting all around us in a big thunderstorm.

'Like a war zone'

There were about seven helicopters in the air. We were checking all the cars for people. It was such an intense situation, no one really knew what was happening.

It's an amazing, horrible, scary situation for people in the village
Unfortunately a few pets trapped in the cars drowned. We couldn't save them because our priority is to save people.

It was a very difficult situation because of the thickness of the fuel on the water and the storm itself - the rain was so heavy you couldn't see right in front of you.

It was somewhat surreal, it was a bit like a war zone, with all these cars floating around.

Most of the cars had been pushed directly down through the village from the main car park, so we were checking, breaking the back of the cars in search for people, but most of them had actually got out before the cars were flushed down, but at the time we didn't realise that. It was such a hectic situation.

We were probably at sea for about three to four hours. People were very thankful, but we were only doing our job.

I think it was a one-off surreal experience. It's an amazing, horrible, scary situation for people in the village.

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