A couple whose Coverack house was devastated by flash flooding last summer have returned to their home, in time for Christmas.
Chris and Penny Hammill made national news when they were airlifted from their dormer bungalow by a Coastguard helicopter after a torrent of water swept through the Cornish village.
Because of the extent of the damage, the couple were originally not expecting to be home until February or March 2018.
The Hammills escaped upstairs after water burst through their house, rising up to five or six feet within the property. A friend came to check on them and called the fire brigade. When firefighters could not reach them, the Coastguard was called in to rescue them.
Penny, who is 74 and has lived in the house for 55 years, said: “My main memory is of the door bursting in and the water coming through. The door between the kitchen and dining room was floating like a raft and I saw my bookcase tipping over. It reminded me of the Titanic sinking. I was waist high in water by then so I grabbed my handbag and keys and we escaped upstairs.”
Five months on and the couple are now moving back into their home, which has been completely refurbished.
The morning after the flooding, Penny rang their insurance company, Cornish Mutual. By early afternoon the same day, the South West rural insurer had brought Richfords Fire and Flood on site to assess the damage, retrieve possessions and clear debris. The Redruth-based company, then carried out a drying programme to put the building into a stable state, ready for the rebuilding stage.
Cornish Mutual employed builders, who have now completed the internal work, which has involved plastering and decorating and installing new flooring, tiles, kitchen and bathroom suites, as well as a replacement boiler and fire.
With Chris being a carpenter and builder, he worked closely with Cornish Mutual to select the right people for the work. He has carried out some of the work himself, including crafting a new oak staircase, and has also helped to select materials. The Hammills are in the process of replacing furniture as almost all of it was lost in the flooding. In the New Year, work will start on the gardens, which need landscaping and replanting.
Cornish Mutual Managing Director Alan Goddard said: “The Coverack flooding was a shock to everyone and caused devastation in the village. The Hammills’ house was particularly hard hit as it has a stream running through the gardens. Over the last few months, we have been coordinating a support team to get Chris and Penny back home. We are absolutely delighted that this has been achieved ahead of schedule and in time for Christmas.
“We wish Chris and Penny a very happy Christmas in their home.”
The stream flows past another of other properties, which were all affected, including two families who have not yet returned home.
Managing Director of Richfords Fire and Flood Steven Richford said: “The Hammills’ house was one of the worst hit properties in the village and needed extensive work to dry out the structure and its contents. It must also be remembered this was a collaboration between us, the Hammills themselves, Cornish Mutual and the builders who rebuilt parts of the house. Nothing is more satisfying than seeing the couple move back into their home in time for Christmas.
“Technology played a key part in restoring the Hammills’ house; as it did at the 24 other properties we worked on across the village. We used the ‘remote monitoring’ kit which we have recently developed. It enabled us to keep a watch on the progress of drying works without the need to repeatedly ask to enter the properties. It meant that we knew exactly when the drying would be completed and could give builders notice for when they would be needed.”
The couple stayed with friends for a few weeks before living in rental accommodation in the village. Penny said: “It has been hard for a lot of people and some are still not back in their homes.
“We have had so much support. We moved to Cornish Mutual a few years ago because we wanted a local insurance company. It turned out to be a very good decision. Everyone has been wonderful and has worked really hard.”
After five months away from home, the Hammills are planning a quiet Christmas. Penny added: “We will have family over after Christmas, but it will just be the two of us on Christmas Day. We really did want to be home for Christmas – it’s just not the same if you’re somewhere else.”