THE ESB last night defended its decision to flood Cork city centre as a preliminary report on the disaster was debated.
Cork City Council has received the report on the flooding of the River Lee which inflicted the worst damage in 800 years on the city.
Cork's flood repair bill is expected to exceed €100m -- with millions of euro worth of damage inflicted to the Mercy University Hospital (MUH) and University College Cork (UCC).
Meanwhile, the national cost of repairing flood damage continues to creep up and already stands at €300m.
The report was debated in City Hall by the council and the ESB again strongly defended its water management policies in the Lee Valley area.
The ESB ordered the release of 535 tonnes of water per second from the Inniscarra hydro-electric dam on November 19 and 20 -- a factor many blamed for the scale of the flooding in the city centre.
The ESB insisted the move was essential given that more than 800 tonnes of water per second was entering the Lee Valley above the dam; and warned that, without the dam, Cork's flooding would have been much worse.
However, councillors last night also queried the effectiveness of flood-warning systems, claiming that the alerts issued in the hours before the flood referred to substantially smaller quantities of water.
One alert mentioned a release of 150 tonnes of water per second, and a second flood warning listed a release of 300 tonnes of water per second.
A second inquiry into the Lee flooding has already been ordered by Environment Minister John Gormley, who expressed serious concern that a strategic water station could be crippled by flooding and 50,000 people left without running water for 10 days.
That flood review is now expected to focus on five key issues including:
- Accuracy of rainfall warnings in the days before the flood.
- Integration of warning systems between the various State and semi-State bodies over the precise flood threat.
- Effectiveness of Cork's 19th century flood defences including its quay walls.
- Vulnerability of key buildings and utilities (including the Lee Fields water station) to future extreme weather events.
- Capacity of Inniscarra and Carrigadrohid Lakes to cope with any extreme rainfall in the future.