Boscastle Flooding 16th August 2004

The storms of Monday 16 August 2004 saw three weeks worth of rain fall in one day. The resulting water began to be funnelled down the valleys surrounding Boscastle and soon the steep roads became rivers. By the time that the water reached the picturesque village, it had picked up enough momentum to become a raging torrent, sweeping into buildings, washing cars away and felling huge trees.

Graham King runs the Witches Museum in Boscastle and was also the station officer for the Boscastle Coastguard Rescue Team at the time of the floods:

My museum is situated next to the harbour near the river,” says Graham “and I can see the coastguard equipment store from there. Initially I was concerned that the vehicle and equipment were going to become stranded but I soon began to realise how quickly the situation was deteriorating and called Falmouth Coastguard

From that point on the villagers and tourists stranded in flood waters were helped by Boscastle Coastguard Rescue Team as well as Coastguard Teams from Port Isaac, Bude, Polzeath and St Austell, the Port Isaac, Bude and Padstow Lifeboats, and seven military and coastguard helicopters, along with police, fire and ambulance services.  Members of the public also joined the rescue effort too, pulling people from stranded cars and helping them to higher ground.

The seven helicopters involved airlifted the people of Boscastle to safety and later 84 wrecked cars were recovered. The floods of 2004 caused £2million worth of infrastructure damage and sixty properties were flooded. Thanks to the swift actions of all of the emergencies services and teams on that day there were no deaths or serious injuries; .

Thoughts from Peter Bullard SMC for the day watch and Steve Huxley the Duty Area Officer for the Southwest.

On that day, Cornwall was full of holiday makers, the weather was pleasant and incidents were being dealt with at a steady pace with nothing out of the ordinary for MRCC Falmouth at the height of summer.

However, as one of our old Coastguard colleague used to say, ”You could be five minutes away from the biggest maritime disaster ever”. 

The flooding at Boscastle was not quite like that but just after 4pm MRCC Falmouth had declared a major incident after receiving key reports from on-scene via Graham followed by numerous 999 calls from members of the public. Initially it is was very difficult to assess the level and pace of flooding. A quick look at Sky News gave us a great sense of focus as a picture speaks a thousand words.

The rest they say is history, we have had many storms since then mainly over the winter months (December 2013 the worst the country has seen) but a summer downpour of the magnitude and devastation has definitely been marked in the history books. To have seven helicopters and excellent co-operation from all the blue lights on scene it was a great example of the UK emergency services at their best.

Steve Huxley/Peter Bullard. 

Chief Coastguard Richard Martin – Boscastle 10th Anniversary

It is ten years since the devastating flood that hit the village of Boscastle, on 16 August 2004.

HM Coastguard has a long and proud tradition of stepping into action at a moment’s notice. This was certainly the case when Graham King of the Boscastle Coastguard Rescue Team was the first to identify the danger and to raise the alarm.

I personally know this particular area very well, having been a Coastguard Sector Manager in Cornwall and been brought up in Port Isaac. When I saw the devastation caused by the floods my thoughts went not just to my friends, but to all those in immediate danger.

As a Coastguard, you focus on the job at hand, making sure you do everything possible for a good outcome, working with other emergency services to rescue those in danger. That day ten years ago showed how everyone working together achieved this, with, miraculously, no loss of life.

During that incident and in the aftermath, members of Her Majesty’s Coastguard upheld the finest traditions of the service, assisting in the successful rescue of so many people.

Ten years on, I would like to pay tribute to all those involved - the Coastguards, Police, Fire crews, Ambulance crews, Lifeboat crews, the members of the public who helped and, of course, the helicopter crews for air lifting so many to safety.

I’d also like to pay tribute to the people of Boscastle and the surrounding area who have over the years rebuilt Boscastle to its former glorious self.

Richard Martin, Chief Coastguard. 

Photos showing the devastation at Boscastle.



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