On This Day: Lynmouth floods killed 34 people in 1952 after three month's worth of rain fell in just 24 hours

Julian Gavaghan
On This Day: Lynmouth floods killed 34 people in 1952 after three month's worth of rain fell in just 24 hours

August 16: Flash floods killed 34 people in a picturesque Devon holiday resort on this day in 1952 – after three times the area’s average August rainfall fell in just 24 hours.

The north coast village of Lynmouth was devastated after nine inches of rain burst rivers and sent torrents of water flowing downhill from already waterlogged Exmoor.

Terrified residents heard a “tremendous roar” before debris-laden floods destroyed 100 buildings and swept away 28 bridges amid a deafening thunderstorm.

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Hundreds were left homeless and the entire fleet of fishing and pleasure boats were also washed out to sea following the nighttime disaster.

A British Pathé newsreel showed the raging water alongside battered shops, hotels and homes.

Tom Denham, owner of the Lyndale Hotel, told the BBC: “About half-past nine there was a tremendous roar.

“The West Lyn had broken its banks and pushed against the side of the hotel, bringing with it thousands of tons of rocks and debris in its course.

“It carried away the chapel opposite and a fruit shop. Three people in the fruit shop were swept against the lounge windows of the hotel.

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“We managed to pull them through in the nick of time.

“I then ordered everyone to go to the second floor, where they huddled in the corridors for safety. In all we had 60 people in the hotel all night.”

One of those guests told the Sunday Express: “It was just like an avalanche coming through our hotel, bringing down boulders from the hills and breaking down walls, doors and windows.”

Troops were sent to the village to help search for survivors and lead an evacuation.

The disaster, which struck 52 years to the day before similar floods devastated the Cornish village of Boscastle, cost £5million in repairs.

Afterwards there was speculation that the floods could have been caused by Ministry of Defence experiments in rain-making by dropping dry ice into clouds.

But the MoD denied it had been using techniques that could trigger a thunder storm capable of bogging down enemies.

Survivors of the disaster called for - but never got - an inquiry.