Boscastle flood of 2004: The tenth anniversary of freak weather striking a Cornish town

One thousand trees were destroyed and 20 years' worth of river sediment was deposited in the village that day, but thankfully nobody died

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The Independent Online

Today marks the tenth anniversary of a devastating flash flood in the village of Boscastle, Cornwall.

An estimated 440million gallons of water swept through the picturesque West Country town on 16 August 2004, after heavy rainfall led to the bursting of banks and the convergence of three rivers.

A total of 58 properties were flooded while four others were completely destroyed.

Around 100 people had to be plucked to safety by emergency teams, after mounting their roofs to escape the rising waters.

The town suffered millions of pounds worth of damage but as residents will also say of that day – it was astounding that nobody died.


Carole Talboys, who volunteered at the Museum of Witchcraft, said that she had counted 60 cars floating down the river “upside down, lights on, beepers going, wipers going – you didn’t know if there was anybody in them”.

“There were trees, we saw the building washed away next to us. I can remember seeing all the helicopters and it was just unbelievable, and we still didn't know exactly how bad it was further up the village,” she told the Press Association.

She said she also saw 15 vehicles smashing into a small bridge, not knowing if people were trapped inside, before heading home to find that her own belongings had been “wiped out” by 4ft of water.

The incident led to MPs and Prince Charles visiting the flood-hit region, while an appeal for stricken householders and businesses reached £400,000 in donations.

Boscastle in 2012

A total of 150 cars were swept away by the water, including 30 into the sea,  while £10million was spent by the government in flood defences.

No flood warning had been issued for the region, with the freak conditions leaving it too late to evacuate the village.

“They did make a very good job of rebuilding Boscastle,” Ms Talboys said.

“But I can say, and I am sure that for a lot of people who were there then, it changed forever.

“They made a really good job of rebuilding the village and everyone worked really hard.

“There were some tragic stories even if they didn't involve death. There were people who never really got over what happened to them on that day.

“We were so lucky that day, so was everybody else.”