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Wednesday 26 October 2016

Floods: Families evacuated in Clonmel amid fears river will reach critical level

Allison Bray, Maeve Sheehan, David Raleigh and Brendan Furlong

Published 02/01/2016 | 17:42

File photo: Flooded fields and roads near Athlone, Co Westmeath.
File photo: Flooded fields and roads near Athlone, Co Westmeath.
Gertie Dunning outside her home in Carrickobreen in Athlone. Photo: Steve Humphreys
The main street of Midleton in east Cork under waters from a flash flood
Declan O’Connell of Lee Travel in his Midleton shop as the clean up continues after the flooding this week. Photo: Provision
Taoiseach Enda Kenny as he tours the area of Carrick-On-Shannon following flooding. Photo: PA
Bridget Kinsella and her three children Philip (15), Luke (16) and Jake (15). Photo Supplied by family
Bridget Kinsella at her home in Springfield, Clonlara, Co Clare where flood waters are expected to rise. Photo: Brian Gavin
A farmer making his way through the flooding in Clonlara, Co Clare. Picture Credit: Brian Gavin
Gerry O’Leary from Ardrahan walks along the main Galway to Limerick road. Photo: Ray Ryan
Taoiseach Enda Kenny toured flood-hit areas in Carrickobrien
Labour leader and Tánaiste Joan Burton gets a closer look at the floods that have devastated Thomastown, Co Kilkenny, after the boat she and Rural Affairs Minister Ann Phelan were travelling in struck a rock and overturned Photo: Dylan Vaughan
Michael Jnr Coakley of Coakley's Menswear in Midleton, Co Cork Photo: Provision
Taoiseach Enda Kenny with Kevin Moran at the Strand in Athlone
Examining flood defences Photo: Steve Humphreys
Inspecting the damage with with the Mayor of Athlone, Cllr Tom Farrell Photo: Steve Humphreys
Taoiseach Enda Kenny visits the home of Gertie Dunning in Carrickobreen in Athlone during the flooding. Photo: Steve Humphreys
The clean-up operation at 'The Bus Stop Shop' on Enniscorthy Quay, in Co Wexford, after it was flooded Photo: Patrick Browne
A swan swims past a flooded house in Carrickobreen in Athlone Photo: Steve Humphreys
Daniel Downey helps his little neighbour Beau (2) through the flood waters outside their homes in Crossdoney, Co Cavan Photo: Lorraine Teevan
Mary Shaughnessy, Rina Shaughnessy and Patty Cahel from Gort were airlifted from their flood-hit homes by the Irish Air Corps Photo: Hany Marzouk
An aerial photograph of flooding near Gort, in south Galway Photo: Hany Marzouk
Joan Burton pictured after a boat capsized on the Quays Photo: Dylan Vaughan
Publican Eamonn Price of Tim's Bar cleans up after flood waters entered his pub. Photo: Dylan Vaughan
Jim Phelan (80) in his home beside the Nore in Thomastown Photo: Dylan Vaughan
Tánaiste Joan Burton and junior minister Ann Phelan take a tumble into the Nore during their visit to Thomastown, Co Kilkenny Photo: Dylan Vaughan
Taoiseach Enda Kenny in Athlone during the flooding
Taoiseach Enda Kenny speaking to media in Athlone during the flooding
Taoiseach Enda Kenny chats with Cllr Tom Farrell Mayor of Athlone in Carrickobreen during the flooding
Taoiseach Enda Kenny chats with Cllr Tom Farrell Mayor of Athlone in Carrickobreen during the flooding
Taoiseach Enda Kenny chats with Cllr Tom Farrell Mayor of Athlone in Carrickobreen during the flooding
Taoiseach Enda Kenny speaking to media in Athlone during the flooding
Taoiseach Enda Kenny speaking to media in Athlone during the flooding
A bus shelter nearly submerged in floodwater in Mallow, County Cork (David Morrissey/@DavidMorrissey5/PA)
The Tanaiste Joan Burton (right) pictured as a boat capsized on the Quays in Thomastown Co. Kilkenny with Ann Phelan TD Minister of State at the Departments of Agriculture, Food and Marine and Transport, Tourism and Sport with Special Responsibility for Rural Economic Development (implementation of the CEDRA Report) and rural transport while being taken to Shem Caulfeilds flooded house. Shem is pulling the boat Picture Dylan Vaughan.
The Tanaiste Joan Burton (right) pictured as a boat capsized on the Quays in Thomastown Co. Kilkenny with Ann Phelan TD Minister of State at the Departments of Agriculture, Food and Marine and Transport, Tourism and Sport with Special Responsibility for Rural Economic Development (implementation of the CEDRA Report) and rural transport while being taken to Shem Caulfeilds flooded house. Shem is pulling the boat Picture Dylan Vaughan.

Tipperary County Council has said it is contacting families to evacuate them from an area deemed to be at critical risk of flooding tonight.

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In a statement tonight, the council said river levels in the River Suir are currently at 3.802 metres, but based on anticipated rainfall between midnight tonight and noon tomorrow, it is predicted that the critical level of four metres for the Kilganey area of Clonmel will be reached.

"Following a meeting of the Clonmel Flood Response Team a decision has been taken to activate level 3 of the Clonmel Flood Response Plan and proceed with the evacuation of Kilganey."

"Arrangements are currently being made to individually contact all families concerned advising of the need to evacuate."

"Families are being directed to the Clonmel Park Hotel as an initial gathering point to ensure that all families are accounted for."

The relevant statutory agencies will liaise with the relevant families to find suitable alternative accommodation where necessary, the council said.

The council will monitor the situation in relation to other areas of Clonmel which have been issued with a precautionary evacuation notice.

Elsewhere, two hundred properties are now under water and more than 150 are at imminent risk of flooding as rising water levels now match or exceed record levels set in 2009 in some areas.

Major rivers like the Shannon running through Athlone and the Blackwater in county Cork were just a few centimetres away from the 2009 peak, and officials from the State’s National Coordination Group today warned of more flooding as affected towns and villages - including Clonmel, Co Tipperary - remain on “a knife edge.”

“I stress that we remain in a severe flood situation, especially in the Shannon catchment, but also in many other catchments (Blackwater, Earne, Nore, Suir, Barrow and Slaney) and we will have to maintain the ongoing flood defence efforts, pumping and temporary defences, for some time to come,” Jim Casey of the OPW told a press conference in Dublin today.

Scores of more residents are victims of widespread flooding,  including 66 householders in county Cavan alone where 50 roads are now flooded. Others had to be rescued after surrounding floodwaters left them “marooned” in their homes, especially in the Athlone area.

Tonight, 50 Defence Forces troops are on active duty sandbagging duties and they are reinforcing flood defences while hundreds more are on standby at barracks around the country. These troops are poised to swing into action if requested by local authorities, said Defence Forces spokeswoman Comdt Roseanna White. To date, 1,400 troops have been involved in flood defence and evacuation efforts, along with local volunteers and Civil Defence staff.

While there was be a brief reprieve after three weeks of relentless storms, heavy rain and winds today, it will be short-lived with more heavy rain set to pummel Leinster and Ulster tomorrow. More heavy rain will follow in all areas on Wednesday after a largely dry day on Monday, according to Met Eireann forecaster Evelyn Cusack.

“We’re still in the Atlantic zonal flow with further bands of rain,” she said of about 20mms expected tomorrow.

“But more normal levels are expected over the next seven days,” she said.

Fears of yet another major winter storm  lashing our shores this week have been allayed after what was shaping up to be the seventh named storm of the season petered out in the Atlantic yesterday, bringing just heavy rain and strong winds.

However Storm Gertrude is still waiting in the wings as more than a hundred storms brew in the Atlantic. But Gertrude won’t be officially called until it reaches at least a Status Orange risk level, posing a serious threat once it makes landfall, Ms Cusack explained.

But with many roads and communities flooded throughout the country after the wettest December on record, gardai are urging people to exercise extreme caution on the roads as they drive home from the Christmas break and return to school and work this week.

Garda press office spokesman Supt John Ferris said despite repeated warnings for drivers not to attempt driving through flood waters, people are still doing so, putting their own lives, and those of the people forced to rescue them at risk.

He also hit out at people taking unnecessary risks in the name of fun, like a canoeist paddling on flooded land who had to be rescued.

“Unfortunately, common sense isn’t that common at times,” he said.

Meanwhile, the emergency committee is also monitoring access to schools and hospitals in affected parts of the country with defence force staff already helping transport staff, particularly public health nurses, to flooded communities.

Boil water notices have been issued in parts of Roscommon and Cork while the floods have impacted train services in pockets around the country.

The Department of Agriculture has also assisted about 100 farmers accessing food and supplies but the  primary concern is for farm safety and animal welfare, said spokeswoman Kay Ryan, who urged farmers to be vigilante traversing flooded land and rescuing animals, noting they can avail of a department helpline if needed.

The battle against the rising tide continued today in Springfield in South East Clare where residents remained marooned on an island of contaminated floodwater.

As far as the eye could see, deep waters reflected a tsunami of depression felt by many across the tight knit rural community.

After a surge of water struck in the early hours of the morning, it transformed the neighbourhood into a port.

Today, using boats, naval reserves and members of Clare Civil Defence transported people and supplies in and out of the area.

"We took over today from the army for the next couple of days, and we are providing access by boat to houses - which are cut off by flooding, and we are also able to provide residents with extra sandbags and a means of getting supplies, such as fuel for their pumps, groceries etc to their houses," explained Sub Lieutenant, James Scanlon, of the Naval Services Reserve.

"We are also relieving some people in trying to keep their pumps going 24-hours a day," he said.

Meanwhile, the south Kilkenny towns of Graiguenamanagh and Thomastown were flooded for a second time on Friday night as the rivers Barrow and Nore burst their banks.

Emergency services in both towns were out in force throughout the night battling to help distraught business and homeowners. The army, firefighters, civil defence, gardai and local residents battled for hours against the rain.

This morning flood waters in both towns were receding and locals were hopeful the worst was over as the torrential rain had stopped.

Junior Minister for Rural Affairs Ann Phelan, who lives in the medieval town of Graiguenamanagh said: “The Irish Defence Forces have been helping in the battle against rising waters in Graiguenamanagh tonight.

“Huge credit and thanks to all of the organisations and individuals who have been out each night in atrocious conditions trying to help South East communities.

Graiguenamanagh was pretty well protected last night, the army were on hand and the Gardai, all the businesses had sandbags and they were pumping water out of the local businesses at the lower end of the town that did get flooded.


In Springfield, Co Clare, four families living among the 16 houses that are determined to be at "high risk" of flooding have left the area.

The fight against the floods has entered its fourth week here.

"Unfortunately the state of play at the moment now is that the water is just below the highest level it reached prior to Christmas which is very difficult and very stressful for the people involved - because if you compare it to 2009, when it was slightly higher than it is now, at least then it went away in a short period of time," said local Independent councillor Michael Begley.

"We are now in a month of this, and four families have had to leave their homes at this stage, because they can't take the stress anymore," he said.

Widow and mother of three Bridget Kinsella, whose home sits in a river of dirt, pleaded with authorities: "Buy me out".

"I don't know what I'm going to do when my three sons grow up and move out of home. I'll be on my own then," she added.

Liz and Mike Hogan, and their four children, moved out after their home was cut off by the floodwater three and a half weeks ago.

Up until now the family have been separated, living out of suitcases in accommodation provided by relatives.

"We moving into secure accommodation tomorrow in the Castleoaks Holiday Homes, go as long as it takes for the water to go down," Ms Hogan said.

"All over Christmas we weren't together. I'm angry. I'm really cross," she added.

"It's depressing. We had no Christmas whatsoever. I'm really angry, and upset. It's three and a half weeks down the line and we are still not home, and it'll be another two to three weeks before we get back."

"At least now we'll be together for the first time in a month," she said.

Several houses are now cut off by the floodwaters, while three homes have been flooded.

"The rest of the houses that are under threat would have flooded up to now only for the fact that, sandbagging and pumping on a continuos basis is saving them," said Cllr Begley.

He added: "I believe that these houses can be protected and a scheme put in place and we have the mechanics and the costings of it in mind."

"We think €200,000 or thereabouts could protect the sixteen homes that are at high risk down here," he said.

Junior Minister for Rural Affairs Ann Phelan in Graiguenamanagh said: “There was a massive defence wall built with sandbags across the quay and it appeared to be holding some of the water back. The Barrow seemed to be causing the problem and while the Duiske river was rising and flowing very fast it was holding.”

Meanwhile in Thomastown, will flood waters did rise but not to the same extent as during the week. The nearby village of Inistioge remains badly flooded along with the south Carlow villages of Leighlinbridge and historic St Mullins while the Barrow river burst it's banks in Bagenalstown making roads very dangerous.

Up to 5,000 sand bags have been distributed throughout Kilkenny county with several clinics being to help those badly affected in the towns and villages.

Junior Minister with special responsibility for the OPW Simon Harris, visited Graiguenamanagh during the week and spent several owners with worried home and business people.

More than 1000 sand bags were brought into Enniscorthy yesterday morning in an effort to prevent repeat flooding of premises along the quay front.

With the river Slaney rising at a much quicker pace than expected concerted efforts were being made to avoid a repeat of the flooding from earlier in the week.

Town Manager, Padraig O’Gorman, said they are confident of averting any repeat flooding but with heavy rain once again predicted for tomorrow there is still a real chance of further flooding.

However, emergency services were on standby throughout the day, to continue the massive efforts to prevent further flooding.

Fine Gael Chief Whip, Paul Kehoe, has spent considerable time  in co-ordinating the Defence Forces, in case of any repeat flooding later in the evening.

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