LONDON – Rescue crews in emergency helicopters and lifeboats searched seaside communities in southwestern England Tuesday for people stranded by flash flooding.
Devon and Cornwall Police said more than 100 people have already been evacuated from the Boscastle area of Cornwall (search ), a popular summer tourist area with sandy beaches and picturesque villages.
The flooding was caused by 2.4 inches of rainfall in just hours on Monday afternoon. Residents in the town of Boscastle (search ), which lies in a valley leading to the sea, reported that an estimated three-foot wall of water poured through the streets at 40 mph.
Scores of people were airlifted from cars, trees and rooftops where they had scrambled to evade the rapidly rising water. Eight people have been treated for conditions ranging from hypothermia to broken bones.
Michael Mulford, spokesman for the Royal Air Force base at Kinloss, which is co-ordinating the military rescue effort, said hundreds more people could be airlifted from the flood-stricken area.
"A lot of them managed to get away to high ground in the early stages, but we have to consider the possibility that we may have many hundreds, up to a theoretical 1,000 people, who may need rescuing," Mulford said.
Power has been switched off and roads closed to the area in a bid to help the rescue effort. Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott (search ) is on his way to Boscastle to meet with emergency officials.
The Coastguard said that police divers will search for up to 50 vehicles, believed to be empty, that were washed into a harbor.
Two buildings collapsed under the weight of the flood waters and scores more were damaged by debris including trees, branches, stones and rubble.
The flood waters were nine-feet deep in some areas, filling bed-and-breakfast lodges and tea shops, officials said.